Top 40 Before 40 Rock Artists - #18 - Reel Big Fish

When I grow up, I want to be as cool as Reel Big Fish

I always thought these guys were just an incredible amount of energy, fun and sarcasm that matched the elements of a good comedic movie. They just happen to choose to do it in music form.

Not all their songs are meant to be funny, but a large majority of them are, and most of the time, it causes an immediate uplift in the mood of anyone listening.

Of course, just like most people who know of this band, I was first introduced to them when they released their smash hit single, “Sell Out” which was on heavy rotation on both MTV and national radio in 1996.

The video that accompanied the song perfectly fit the skewering sense of humor for which the band would become well known. Of course, not everyone got the joke, and a lot of fans and even other bands would point to this song as an example of how selling out to get famous was just an example of throwing away the integrity of the music.

For those of you who are just joining this list at this point, let me give a quick summary below:

  • In my almost 40 years on this planet, I have had the great pleasure of listening to a lot of music that doesn't make it to the airwaves, and a lot of these bands are some of my absolute favorites.
  • You WILL see some Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame bands on the list too, but for the most part, you are likely going to disagree with this list almost entirely.
  • I am sharing this ranking so that you get some insight into some great bands you may have never heard before AND for a little bit of a personal challenge to myself to rank these bands.

With that said, let's get to #18 on my Top 40 List Before 40:

Reel Big Fish performing at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, California on March 27, 2008

By Miles Gehm from San Jose, USA - 20080321 34 Half Past Two REEL BIG FISH at Catalyst 

#18 - Reel Big Fish

Reel Big Fish may be one of the most underrated bands in the history of the world. Aaron Barrett, who sings and plays lead guitar, is an absolute shredder on six strings (one example is the song "Lost Cause"), and he basically bends music to his whimsical stylings as evident by the many cover songs they have become known for.

The rest of the band is incredibly talented at their respective instruments as well, and a lot of times having a lot of talent means a band will make self-serving music that doesn’t have much of an appeal to anyone but them. That is definitely not the case with RBF.

Upon the release of their album Turn the Radio Off, Reel Big Fish got thrust into a spotlight that many bands wouldn’t be comfortable with, and as the years played out, it seemed to be the remnants of that spotlight that they would try to avoid.

They probably have about 10 or more songs that talk about how they either hate being famous, hate being in a band, how everything sucks, or how much they hate the fan base that consumed them and spit them out.

However, if you are a true fan, you would know that these guys absolutely are going to feel disrespected, defensive and they will end up fighting back against the bandwagon fans or the groupies who only loved them when they were famous enough to be a household name.

In my opinion, when a band can speak their mind, it actually makes the real fans feel more connected to them, and I would venture to say that was the goal of putting out the songs like “Thank You For Not Moshing,(a.k.a. In the Pit)” “Down In Flames,” “Everyone Else Is An Asshole,” “We Care” and a handful of other songs along the same lines.

But that’s not to say that they only complain about fake fans. They complain about themselves, their songs, their success and more. But they do it in a way that seems to be a way to deal with not meeting their own expectations or just to get through their own issues. See songs like “Famous Last Words,” “Don’t Start a Band,” and “Story of My Life” (among others).

They’re honest and vulnerable, but funny, uplifting and ultimately that makes them seem like real people that have to cope with the same mechanism that allows you to be able to listen to them in the first place.

Some of my absolute favorite songs from these guys are (aside from ones I already mentioned):

To be honest, you can’t really go wrong with these guys. If you like ska music, or even if you don’t, just go listen to some of their music.

Chances are you will like a few of the songs, and your day will be much better than it was before you started down the Reel Big Fish rabbit hole.

Similar Artists That I Recommend That Didn't Make The Top 40:

The Pietasters, Sublime, RX Bandits

<-- Check out #19 on this list or Check out #17 on this list → (Available Apr. 27, 2021)