Reel Big Fish has been playing ska-punk since the early ’90s and is best known for the 1997 hit “Sell Out,” but to me they will always be the band that created one of my favorite album titles of all time: Why Do They Rock So Hard? The cover of the 2001 album featured the band members in silhouette against a background of stars, a little like the logo for Charlie’s Angels. Front and center was a guy playing a double-neck guitar and flashing the devil-horns sign. Around him were other musicians in various poses of severe rockitude. I didn’t notice at first that most of these metal maniacs were holding not Flying Vs but trumpets and trombones.
Reel Big Fish dipped into the well of ironic metal again early this year with Fame, Fortune, and Fornication, an album of tongue-in-cheek covers including not one but two Poison songs. The concept doesn’t take a lot of imagination: Reel Big Fish began as a cover band, and throughout their career they have been alternating their sarcastic originals with ironic covers. Their version of “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” sounds exactly the way you would think a ska-punk take on the Slade/Quiet Riot song would sound like.
But the whole album is redeemed by “Talk Dirty to Me,” a duet between lead singer Aaron Barrett and guest Tatiana DeMaria. In the Reel Big Fish version, the Poison song is stripped down to little more than vocals, a minimal drumbeat, and some rockabilly-ish guitar. What once seemed like a boneheaded hair-metal hit turns out to be a great pop song.
REEL BIG FISH: House of Blues, Tuesday, December 29, 6:30 p.m. 619-299-2583. $19.