Written By: Ben Millikan
I can still faintly remember being an ardent twelve-year-old punk-rock enthusiast–championing the likes of such bands as MxPx, Blink-182, and Green Day– One day, after stumbling upon my sister’s copy of Reel Big Fish’s “Turn The Radio Off,” I sat back and thought, “These guys are ruining punk!” The trumpets, the trombone, that redundant guitar upstroke–all of it just seemed so sacrilegious to me at the time. But eventually, after a few more spins, the infectious up-beatness of ska grew on me, and I quickly became a fan of the band.
Since then, some thirteen years, a slew of lineup changes, and 4 albums later, the band is back with an album of covers called “Fame, Fortune, and Fornication.” Although some RBF die-hards may be disappointed that the record doesn’t contain any new tracks written by the band, the ten covers, ranging from everything from Poison to The Eagles, have a unique twist to them.
This is the beauty of ska: it has the uncanny ability of taking a pop song, or an 80’s metal song, or even an acoustic song, make it its own, and yet still preserve the original qualities of a song that made it so popular in the first place. RBF’s best example of this is their version of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” Although this song has been covered by way too many bands to list, RBF band does it justice by having the horns cover that classic guitar riff and by adding plenty of group chants behind the catchy “Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-lala-te-da.”
Despite some songs not translating as well; most notably Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down,” the classic elements of ska are present throughout. Mellencamp could appreciate the band’s take on his “Authority Song” and guitar player and vocalist Aaron Barrett would make Brett Michaels proud with his own take on the Poison hits “Nothin’ But A Good Time” and “Talk Dirty To Me.”
It may be short and a bit cliche (as most cover albums are), but overall, Fame, Fortune, and Fornication as a whole accomplishes the goal taking popular songs and making them entertaining and upbeat.