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-punk outfits has been a band from Berkeley, California, Rancid. (Pictured above). Some of their songs are 1 1/2 minutes, a 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 Waver 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.”