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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE
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Conjuring Formulas That Work

Brea-based band achieves an out-of-this-world sensibility with its peppy ska rhythms and frothy tone.

December 15, 1999|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

*** THE AQUABATS "The Aquabats Vs. the Floating Eye of Death!" Goldenvoice

In some circles, the ska-pop that's been the ticket to ride for many an O.C. band has become a silly cartoon.

No problem for the Aquabats, the Brea-based band whose primary career goal would still seem to be a Saturday morning cartoon show.

Another O.C. outfit, Supernova, started dressing up in whimsical sci-fi outfits before the Aquabats did, but both owe a debt to the B-52's, which merged a love for campy sci-fi with the percolating new wave textures that prevailed in the early '80s.

The peppy ska rhythms and twangy Secret Agent-like guitars that have flourished in this decade make an equally ideal musical environment for the Aquabats' story line about an extraterrestrial plot to take over the Earth. Naturally, the Aquabats represent humanity's only hope for salvation.

The songs generally maintain an appropriately frothy tone.

"Lovers of Loving Love" races along in its ebullience over love, so complete that it comes off as an alien's first encounter with a totally unfamiliar emotion. There's even a cleverly placed cavalry-to-the-rescue trumpet riff in the chorus that drives the point home.

The lounge samba setting of "Chemical Bomb" is a smart choice for offsetting the apocalyptic end of civilization predicted in the lyrics.

"Monsters Wedding" imagines an alien abduction that results in a man marrying a monster against his will. Elvis goes calypso in the lilting "Tiny Pants," which also pulls off an update of '50s novelties "Witch Doctor" and "Flying Purple People Eater."

The key to goofball material like this is to keep things moving. Slow down, as the Aquabats do in "The Thing on the Bass Amp," and you risk giving listeners time to consider how silly it really is.

It is adolescent humor, to be sure, but for the most part it's as much fun as watching another of Godzilla's rubber-suited battles for domination of the Earth. And who knows? Maybe the Aquabats are onto something.

Perhaps the weapon that will ward off the destruction of humankind--either at the hands of aliens or ourselves--is a sense of humor.

*

The Aquabats, Hippos and Moseleys play Saturday at the Glass House, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona. 8 p.m. $15. (909) 469-5802. The Aquabats also play Dec. 22 at the Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 786-1712.

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