Ska Punk

As the name suggests, this genre is a mix of ska and punk. You know what punk is but here’s a nice refresher anyway. But what is ska? I can do no better here than to quote Wikipedia (with a few italicized interjections by yours truly):

“Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950’s and was the precursor to rocksteady (slower tempo) and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento (a sort of folk music) and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off-beat.”

And so ska punk combines the sound of ska with the fast, cutting rhythms of punk, often adding a horn section. It started developing in England in the late ’70’s with bands like The Clash, Madness and the Specials. Eventually this music made its way across the pond and influenced bands like Sublime and Boston’s own Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

One of the most successful ska punkΒ outfits has been a band from Berkeley, California, Rancid. Some of their songs are 1 1/2 minutes, few longer than 2 minutes or so. One of my favorites is “Time Bomb.”

Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac. Yeah
The boy’s a time bomb

The band Catch 22 is from New Jersey. (As it happens, all the bands in this post are American. Not being ethnocentric here. These groups have just caught my fancy in recent years.) This band has been around for about twenty years and near as I can tell, have been on hiatus lately.

Anyway, here’s “On and On and On,” a song that starts at uptempo, makes a detour to slow, and winds up at frantic:

The next band originally formed under the lovely moniker of Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines. Later, apparently rethinking the wisdom of that name, they dropped the Kevorkian part and just went with Suicide Machines. (You can be forgiven for thinking the name comes from “Born to Run.”)

And while they never hit the heights of mainstream success, they did put out a few albums and joined the long-running Vans Warped Tour a few times.

Here’s a catchy little breakneck number called “No Face.”

Last and by no means least is a band from New York City called The Toasters. Their debut EP was recorded by no less a personage than British New WaverΒ Joe Jackson. (What’s he been up to lately I wonder?)

Toasters do a song that is not just a great, funky tune but also provides words to live by. I bring you, direct from Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, MA, “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down.”


22 thoughts on “Ska Punk

  1. Great minds thnk alike, CB. And then again, there’s you and I. πŸ˜‚ Question – is it the pre-reggae ska you go nuts over or the ska punk? Both? As to sparing me your BS, no worries. Comment as often as you’d like. That’s why I started this blog in the first place. I spread my BS out there several times a week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Got into it through Madness, The Specials, Selector, English Beat. Madness really hooked me for a lot of reasons. Videos were good, the beat was great, loved the sax on it. Have all those records. CB Jr. is a huge Rancid fan. When I heard him listening to it I thought it was Joe Strummer. I’m not kidding I was listening to a compilation ‘SKA The second Wave’. I don’t know about “great minds” I can only speak for myself, the old brain is a little fried.


      1. Actually CB Jr’s name is Big Earl and he likes all the Ska punk stuff, Dropkick Muurphy etc. He’s turned CB onto lots of cool music. He’s getting into the Allman Brothers through bands like Tedeschi Trucks and other newer bands with a similar sound. Another good one Jim. CB is going on a Ska bender. Later.


  3. I really wasn’t aware of an American Ska scene. It was so huge in the UK when I was over there that I guess I always gravitated towards the English bands. There’s some great stuff here, though. I’ll have to delve further.


    1. Yeah, there’s really much less of a ska scene in the US per se, just isolated pockets of bands that nowadays mostly only get played on satellite radio. People who are into their favorite bands, however, really love them. I mentioned Boston’s Mighty Mighty.Bosstones It’s almost time for their yearly, wildly popular Hometown Throwdown. I’d go but I’d likely get hurt. πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, hadn’t noticed that’s what it was. Of course! The perfect complement! 😊 As to the Brit scene, one day I’ll get around to doing something about The Specials and/or Madness. Love this stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m not sure that’s still true. I think they spend their time in their rooms playing video games these days. When they listen to music they take it out with them to annoy old codgers like me on the train.


    1. Ok, Operation Ivy turns out to be interesting on two levels. One is musically. Good band. Two is as an amateur historian, some tasty stuff here. Wikipedia refers to a 924 Gilman Street as an epicenter of the late ’80’s Berkely punk scene. So that’s an interesting piece of info to store away for later. It goes on to say that Ivy was a “direct antecedent of Rancid.” Hmm.

      And then perhaps even more interestingly it says, “[Ivy] broke up two months later in May, and its last official live performance was on May 28, 1989. This was also Green Day’s first performance with the name Green Day at 924 Gilman Street, at what was supposed to have been Operation Ivy’s record release party.” Terrific. Thanks for this info. Later I’ll dive into the Green Day thing and do some research on this Gilman Street Collective.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sometimes one good album is all you need. Better that than the sophomore slump, then a bunch of albums that are half filler as so many bands wind up with.


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