Aquabats, with the Eyeliners, the Phenomenauts and Time Again

A decade ago, wacky ska preceded bling-bling rap as an ostentatiously decadent musical movement. With choreographed horn sections inflating their ranks, groups in this subgenre traveled in RV trailers instead of tour vans. The most successful of these acts, the Clueless-canonized Mighty Mighty Bosstones, even carried a designated dancer on their roster, paralleling the equally superfluous hip-hop hype man.

But brass is a luxury that ska-metal bands no longer can afford. Once an octet, the Aquabats have slimmed down to a four-piece and ditched ska for zippy synthesizers and sci-fi guitar leads. But even without tooting trumpets, this group could outgoof Gallagher. All the song titles on its recent release, Charge!!, end with exclamation points, much like the lines of dialogue in a Mad Magazine movie parody. Live, the masked Aquabats wear matching wet suits and toss party favors into the crowd. In tight-budget times, a throwback act like the Aquabats that remains devoted to stadium-size spectacles and aggressive mirth is heartening. It just goes to show you, zaniness dies hard.


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