Up Hi? Down low: The Aquabats and growing old.

You’re getting old. Does that scare the hell out of you? It drives Mr. Fallingard to stay up at night. I haven’t lost any sleep over it but I did lose something.

You see, there isn’t a lot of music that I avoid. Yes, there are some genres I don’t like. I find that’s an acceptable practice.  There’s very little chance you’ll find me owning any dubstep or releases from artists like The String-Cheese Incident or Lil’ Wayne. But I think that’s not terribly offensive. However, I hate HI-FIVE SOUP! by The Aquabats.

I do, however, like The Aquabats. THE FURY OF THE AQUABATS! is a great album. VS. THE FLOATING EYEBALL had some weak spots but the collection MYTHS, LEGENDS AND OTHER AMAZING ADVENTURES VOL.2 is a great batch of songs. Though they abandoned the horns on CHARGE!!!, the album grew on me and it turned out to be a great step for the band as they matured. But if I can help it, I will never listen to HI-FIVE SOUP! again.

The Aquabats have always had a slightly ridiculous and, dare I say, zany approach to their songs. Their earlier releases had some youthful anthems (“My Skateboard”, “Red Sweater”) and songs about weird creations (“The Cat With Two Heads”, “Powdered Milk Man”, “Magic Chicken”). However, though they sang about junior-high in “Pizza Day,” the music was universally accessible. It was the product of the group’s generation, harking back to Saturday Morning while going to work early on a Tuesday. But man. HI-FIVE SOUP takes that youthful exuberance and cranks it waaaaaay the hell up.

In an interview, the alter ego of the MC Bat Commader, Christian Jacobs, said about HI-FIVE SOUP:

“I think on Charge!! [The Aquabats] were tackling some more sophisticated humor, things like fashion, popular culture and stuff that isn’t as kiddy or pre teen as the early AQUABATS! stuff, where we were singing about tarantulas and baking chocolate cakes and midget pirates. I think this new record has more stuff like that o it, silly kid stuff, which is fun. It’s less trying to appeal to a little bit older crowd and just trying to appeal to the Halloween costume crowd, ya know?”

He’s right. CHARGE!! did deal with some developed concepts. “Stuck In A Movie!” was about the problem of relying on fictional media as a framing reference point for real life. “Look At Me (I’m A Winner!)” dealt with the concept of viewing yourself as a success, even if you’re spending your days working on a jobsite with ‘four radios blasting classic rock.’ “Fashion Zombies!” addressed the problems of dressing up in retro-fashions. Of course, there were songs about giant mechanical apes, nerd alerts and waterslides. There was stuff for the kids but also for their older siblings. I was in mid twenties when the album came out and I could still jam out to both “Plastic Lips!” and “Demolition Rickshaw!” alike.

I’ve been trying to figure out what “the Halloween costume crowd” means, though I think he meant “kids.” Specifically, “those kids who have made our kid show ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ a hit.” Granted, that makes a lot of sense. The show started in 2007, thirteen years after the Aquabats started as a band. Even from the beginning, the band existed with theatrical elements, based on what I assume is the influence of MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) tenure as a child/teen actor.

There were numerous of unsuccessful attempts to transform the Aquabats into a television entity, with only the recent announcement that The Hub will turn “The Aquabats Super Show” into a reality. The children’s show, ‘Yo Gabba Gabba,’ is a, if not the most important success in the Aquabats’ career. To modify their music to appeal to the group most likely to identify them from that show seems a logical, if not a bit too-safe, decision.

It could also be that the departure of longtime guitarist, Chainsaw the Prince of Karate, removed a mature element of the band in terms of songwriting. In the DVD documentary that came with the 1-Year Anniversary reissue of Charge!!!, Chainsaw comes off more like the dude who just wants to play punk rock and not deal with the all the childish, goofy shit. Off to tend to his thriving woodcarving business, Chainsaw might have taken a good counterbalance to the music writing process. Or not. Who knows for sure?

What I do know is HI-FIVE SOUP is not an album made for me. I was disappointed to find that out, to discover that I was too big for the ride. I had unknowingly committed the unforgivable sin of growing older. The music, to my ears, is a bit regressive and simplified, but The Aquabats aimed their sound for a younger audience. It’s not a case of two entities drifting apart. It’s more that they went a hard left as I inevitably turned right.

There are bands that I have outgrown, selling or giving away my copies of their CDs since their hair rock or death metal fashions no longer need apply. But this is the only time I can remember a band outgrowing me. If at the great concert of metaphor, I had to give up my space in the audience because three younger fans needed to get in and see the show. I can be resentful for it, but if this means the band can rise to greater levels of success, the disappointment will taper off.

I think staving off death or prolonging a condition that should have ended is a common thread in horror. It’s always about conquering death, refusing defeat and maintaining a level of comfort or power even when the moment has passed. I could be a monster, snarling and riddled with angst at what I saw as a betrayal as I pursue the reversal of the clock’s hands. Or, I can be glad that I got a chance to see the band a couple of times and that they released some albums that I really like. I’m too old for The Aquabats. Kind of sucks but I had my turn being a Cadet. I’ve gotten older and it’s time to let the kids have some fun. After all, with the Aquabats, it’s always about doing it for the kids.

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