Saturday, November 22, 2008

Top Five Ska Bands You’ve Never Heard Of

OK, so let’s face it: ska fans nowadays gain their “street cred” by rattling off ska bands that anyone in the underground has heard of. Yeah, so you like Reel Big Fish? Saw Big D play last weekend? Sporting a Streetlight Manifesto shirt today? These bands are musically fantastic and certainly significant to the ska scene. However, these “big names” (…as big as a ska band can get, anyway) unfortunately overshadow some of the smaller, yet just as worthwhile, ska bands that make up today’s scene.

Bomb The Music Industry
Frontman Jeff Rosenstock (formerly of Arrogant Sons of Bitches) mixes ska with folk-punk and synthesizers, making for a completely unique – yet unwaveringly catchy – new genre. And here’s a completely new spin: BTMI’s music is offered completely free of charge via download on their website (…long before Radiohead thought of this idea, kiddies). Although BTMI’s lyrics are borderline depressing at times, Jeff has a knack for writing raw and relatable songs. And while Jeff’s scratchy voice takes a while getting used to, it just adds to the beautifully unrefined tone of the album as a whole. Each album has its own unique tone, but favorite songs range from post-apocalyptic “Side Projects are Never Successful” to happy-go-lucky “I Don’t Love You Anymore” to sing-along anthem “Happy Anterrabae Day!!!” Make sure to attend a BTMI show for the most fun you’ve had in all your ska-lovin’ years.
Album recommendation: Get Warmer

The Fad
This ska-core band from Long Island brings an energy that many ska bands simply miss: the double-sided coin of catchy, dance-able ska beats (like songs “Ska-Boom!” and “Bright Lights”) mixed with crazy-go-nuts hardcore (“Kill Punk Rock Stars”). Singer Jimmy Doyle has a voice no one can dislike – the perfect combination of sweet vocal skills slipping into energetic screaming. Make sure to attend a Fad show, as these guys bring a type of energy to the stage like no other. But beware: things can get a little out of control during mosh-heavy sing-alongs like “B2M”.
Album recommendation: Kill Punk Rock Stars

Subb
This Canadian ska band is unfortunately one of the least talked about in the States. Their music is some of the tightest I’ve heard in ages from a semi-local ska band; while there are generally no horns used, the guitarists and drummer have an uncanny ability to break the ska beat down. Singer Jeff Quesnel has a voice so smooth and easy, it’s hard not to start singing along upon first listening. Lyrics range from singing about animal rights (“A Little More of Chomsky”) to the revival of the ska scene (“Quarter to Seven”) to unwavering love (“Tattoo”).
Album recommendation: The Motions

Tri-State Conspiracy
Self-described as “murderous ska-swing-heavy metal,” Tri-State Conspiracy indeed crosses into all these genres, emerging with an original yet extremely polished sound. Don’t let singer Jeffrey Paris’s preference for old-school suits and retro microphones fool you: the band’s highly energetic stage presence and involvement with their audience make TSC one of the most enjoyable bands to see live. Based out of NYC, TSC has the attitude to prove it: lyrics range from plotting murder (“Murder Fantasy”) to expressing frustration with daily 9 to 5 life (“High Strung Mess”) to the maladies of war (“Frantic”). Definitely check this band out if you like to dance while shouting along to spunky lyrics set against ska/swing melodies.
Album recommendation: High Strung Mess

Mad Caddies
If you think that Reel Big Fish is still the best ska band to hit the 3rd wave, I highly recommend you listen to this California based ska band and reconsider. Singing lyrics reminiscent of RBF’s tongue-in-cheek humor (with less kitsch) and sporting what may be the tightest horns in North America, it’s nearly impossible to stay neutral to Mad Caddies. Singer Chuck Robertson has a gift that few ska bands singers have: a naturally talented voice! Mad Caddies sport excellent musicianship all around and seamlessly integrate poppy melodies into flawless ska beats. From impressively horn-heavy “Monkeys” to soft-sided “Drinking for Eleven” to quirky, yet strangely pleasing “Weird Beard,” the Mad Caddies are catchy enough to turn even the most elite indie fan into a ska lover.
Album recommendation: Just One More

- Jackie Reiss