HMX Recommends Ska (re: Podcast Episode 35)

edited February 2011 in History of Rock
If you haven't already checked it out, on this week's podcast we talked at length about one of my favorite musical genres, Ska. Give the podcast a listen if that interests you, and let's start a discussion like we did with Hardcore Punk about your favorite Ska bands and albums!

Here's three from me:

The Specials - The Specials
Produced by Elvis Costello, this 2nd wave band's debut album is a scorcher from start to finish. I guarantee you 100% if you put this record on at a party, people will dance. The Specials defined what was known as the 2-Tone era of Ska, and this album stands as THE DOCUMENT that music archaeologists will look to for explanations of what was happening in late 70's England. The influence of the burgeoning punk scene is hugely prevalent, but the songs retain a dancey musicality that the Specials' punk contemporaries rarely could pull off. And, man, did these dudes have style!?! These songs are ON POINT politically and socially, espousing the youth's desire for racial unity in Thatcher's England. Key tracks: A Message To You Rudy, Doesn't Make It Alright, and Concrete Jungle.

Desmond Dekker - Rudy Got Soul 1963-1968
Desmond Dekker is pretty widely accepted as the originator of Ska music. Toots and the Maytals (another early pioneer) even wrote a song admitting that Desmond came first and that Toots was second! Dekker is absolutely essential listening if you want to hear the music in its original form. His voice is one of the best in music history, right up there with the greats of Motown and Stax. Dekker's influence gained fans all over the world, with the Beatles' "Obladi Oblada" being their homage to him, even naming that song's main character after him. Almost every ska band you will see play will cover a Desmond Dekker tune. My favorite thing about Dekker is how his songs started off entreating the youth to follow their mother and father's rules, but then transitioned into a Rude Boy singing about being rough and tough. Key tracks: 007 (Shanty Town), A It Mek, Intensified.

The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
Coming up at the same time as The Specials, The Beat (known in the states as The English Beat to differentiate from another US band called The Beat) knocked it out of the park with their debut album. The dueling voices of singer Dave Wakeling and "Toaster" Ranking Roger makes the band's sound a unique one. Toasting was sort of an early form of rap started in Jamaica, with DJ's spinning dub reggae/ska tracks and freestyling over them. This album is also solid from start to finish, with some straight up traditional ska/reggae covers, to more straightforward pop/rock songs. Key Tracks: Two Swords, Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret, Mirror in the Bathroom.


  • edited January 2011
    I am nowhere near the ska superfan that HMXpope is, so my picks run a little newer and veer more towards punk or ska core.

    Less Than Jake - Losing Streak

    I had never heard of these guys when I saw them play at a festival in '96, right as Losing Streak was released and they blew me away. Most of the bands I was into took themselves so seriously, and projected such a serious stage presence, so seeing these guys running around with trombones, goofing on each other and eventually stripping while throwing scratch tickets into the crowd was a real mind blower. This album is tons of fun, with songs about Johnny Quest, breakups, stealing cars and rock and roll pizzerias. One of my most reliable go to pick me up records.

    The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - More Noise And Other Disturbances

    From full on party anthems to songs that will make you skank until your legs are tired, this album is jam packed full of energy. Lead singer Dickie Barrett's distinctive growl is an awesome complement to the peppy, upbeat horns. "Awfully Quiet" is a schizophrenic tribute to the calming attributes of noise, "Where'd You Go" is a non stop sing along and their cover of Slapshot's "What's At Stake" puts a fierce funk spin on a hardcore classic. Not to be missed!

    Catch 22 - Keasbey Nights

    A surprisingly sensitive album, mixing raucously defiant horns and group shout outs with songs about depression, death and mortality. Sometimes touching, sometimes tender, sometimes angry, this album stands out as one of the more thoughtful modern ska albums I've heard.
  • edited January 2011
    I only have one - and its the most important ska recommendation, nay, BAND recommendation, you'll ever receive. Now pay attention's a now-defunct, but purely legendary, outfit called Headboard.
    Learn more here:
  • HMXthebeststephHMXthebeststeph Harmonix Developer
    edited January 2011
    Hey, it's me, thebeststeph. Hey. Hey, guys. I only have a couple of recommendations.

    Operation Ivy, Energy
    I received a copy of this tape when I was a wee lass of maybe 14, and I loooooved it. I played that cassette non-stop. The album, of the ska punk variety, was originally released in 1989 on iconic Lookout! Records and then rereleased in 1991 as a CD with an added eight tracks from the band's EP, Hectic. Energy is an all around great album, but some of my personal favorite tracks are "Bombshell," "Take Warning" and, of course, "Sound System".

    The Ethiopians, Engine '54: Let's Ska and Rocksteady
    Let's ska and rocksteady indeed! The Ethiopians are a Jamaican band that got together in 1966, and Engine '54 is their first album. It features the classic ska reggae track, "Train to Skaville". Other songs that highlight the band's smooth vocals and fun horn section include "Come On Now", "Train to Glory" and, of course, "Engine 54". These dudes like trains.
  • JTHomesliceJTHomeslice Unsigned
    edited January 2011
    Yeeeah~! I love ska! 3rd wave to be more specific. I fully back Keasbey Nights and the Streetlight version is great as well. I'm also with Steph on Op Ivy. The collection Hellcat released a while back was a great find for me.

    Reel Big Fish
    Man, Reel Big Fish is one of my favorite bands ever. They, along with TMBG, were one of the bands that got me seriously into music. The mix of upbeat, fun music with depressing lyrics is wonderful. Not all their songs have depressing subject matter though, "Trendy" is about their rising popularity in the 90's, "She Has a Girlfriend Now" is about a girl who leaves Aaron for another girl (this actually happened to one of my friends!), and "In the Pit" is about moshing meathead jerks. They also do some of the best covers around. "Take On Me" is GODLY. Turn the Radio Off is their best studio album, but I'd recommended either getting Our Live Album is Better Than Your Live Album or their recent greatest hits album if you want to check them out.

    Streetlight Manifesto
    After Keasbey Nights, a bunch of members of Catch 22 left the band and later formed Streetlight Manifesto. This is one of the best ska bands past the ska boom in the late 90's. All their albums are super great, even their rerecord of Keasbey Nights.

    I also want to note The Arrogant Sons of *****es and The Aquabats. People, go here and download Three Cheers for Disappointment. You won't be disappointed. Also check out Bomb the Music Industry on there. They're kinda ska and kinda a whole bunch of other stuff but all awesome. And I got into The Aquabats with the release of Charge!!, a departure from their previous ska sound. It was more of a synth rock album, but still super fun and awesome. The Fury of The Aquabats! is, in my opinion of course, their best album of their ska sound. It even has Travis Barker drumming on it! And their newest album Hi-Five Soup! is also a super fun synth rock album. How can you not like an album with fuggin Biz Markie and Strong Bad on it?!

    I love ska and you should too.
  • TheAuthorityClintonTheAuthorityClinton Opening Act
    edited January 2011
    Nice discussion. I'm glad you finally mentioned that The Slackers is indeed available on RBN. One of our authors plays in The Toasters and is on the road with them right now. When their next record is done we should be putting out a song or two from it.

    Check out Everyday Is Sunday by The Slackers now on RBN for XBOX! Pass it on.
  • SCFoxSCFox Opening Act
    edited January 2011
    I agree wholeheartedly with JTHomeslice.

    I love 3rd wave ska! Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, and The Aquabats can always put me in a great mood.
  • skyttskyttskyttskytt Headliner
    edited January 2011
    Mad Caddies - Just One More
    I'm not hugely knowledgeable about ska, but I figured I'd add one to the mix since I definitely enjoy the sound. I found these guys from a couple songs scattered across various Warped Tour CDs I had bought back in the early 2000s and have followed them since. They're a kind of ska punk band, and have all kinds of different sounds across, and even within, their albums. I'm going to try to link some of their more horns-heavy songs, because a lot of their stuff is pretty heavily split up across different genres.

    Silence (this one is live and faster tempo than the studio version I have, hard to find the studio version for some reason)
    Spare Change
    10 West
    Last Breath
    Drinking For 11 (probably their most well-known song)

    I've been listening to some of the stuff that Pope had recommended to me over twitter (yes I did pay attention :)), and so far have gone through a bit of The English Beat and The Selecter and enjoy both of them and would recommend them to others.
  • thedanielthedaniel Road Warrior
    edited January 2011
    I feel the need to seconed Operation Ivy strongly. If you haven't listened to it then go do that.

    I'll recommend The Offs. First Record is great.

    Some songs
    You Fascinate Me
    Everyone's A Bigot
  • edited January 2011
    skyttskytt;4274305 said:
    i've been listening to some of the stuff that pope had recommended to me over twitter (yes i did pay attention :)), and so far have gone through a bit of the english beat and the selecter and enjoy both of them and would recommend them to others.

    this makes me so happy!
  • GowienczykGowienczyk Pooper of Parties
    edited January 2011
    Eastern Standard Time
    Rotterdam Ska-Jazz Foundation
    Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

    Blend of pop/crossover, jazz-ska and so forth. Thought it'd add to the thread and any fan of the sounds library/wishlists.
  • bubblegumpopbubblegumpop Road Warrior
    edited January 2011
    The Aquabats!-The Fury of The Aquabats!

    Seriously one of the best ska albums of all time, it's even got Travis Barker on drums...
  • GowienczykGowienczyk Pooper of Parties
    edited January 2011
    Seriously one of the best ska albums of all time, it's even got Travis Barker on drums...
    I really wouldn't call "pop-rock with horns" ska on a huge basis, even for crossover, let alone the "best"- I mean tastes are subjective and best usually just means overinflated favoritism, but it still causes me to speak louder than I should. I really tend to not like american pop/ska crossover albums and I find it very regressive for ska, especially the bands who really try to put out great material (like TSPO, who are in my opinion the most consistent and quality band of their generation for ska music).

    Just some thoughts, not trying to start arguments (for once) or anything.
  • WarrnWarrn Unsigned
    edited January 2011
    Wow. I was excited for this podcast until you guys just completely blew off third-wave as pop-punk with horns. When you take away the horns, it doesn't sound much like pop-punk. They still use upstrokes and fancy bass lines which pop-punk almost never does. That's why third-wave is referred to as ska-punk. It's also what I want the most in Rock Band. Anything from Less Than Jake would be fantastic, I'm amazed there isn't already a Mighty Mighty Bosstones pack, Reel Big Fish would be a great addition, and the 90s had plenty of other strong ska-punk bands (Mustard Plug, Save Ferris, MU330, Catch 22, Five Iron Frenzy, the Aquabats!, Mad Caddies, the Planet Smashers, Buck-O-Nine). And there are plenty of excellent current ska-punk bands as well, including some who are still around from the 90s (LTJ and RBF are still ska, the Aquabats! haven't been ska for a long time and the new album will disappoint you if that's the sound you're hoping for).

    Great current bands would include Big D and the Kids Table, Streetlight Manifesto, We Are The Union, the Flatliners, Have Nots, and Suburban Legends. There are plenty of smaller, more local acts around as well. The best local bands near me are Chupaskabra and Shotgun Diplomacy for third-wave, the Duppies for more of a rocksteady sound.

    I don't mean to discount earlier ska at all, I'm just disappointed that you guys treat third-wave so negatively. I mean, the only band I mentioned with a ska pun name is a band that's local to me. I would gladly pick up some two-tone, especially Madness. If any ska band deserves a greatest hits DLC pack, it's Madness. Maybe even throw in some of their newer stuff, since they've been active again recently. Regardless, ska as a whole is extremely under-represented. Please, PLEASE give us some.
  • afterstasisafterstasis Washed Up
    edited January 2011
    More like HMXthebesttaste.
  • LegendofRock3021LegendofRock3021 Nice Doggy
    edited January 2011
    thedaniel;4274316 said:
    I feel the need to seconed Operation Ivy strongly. If you haven't listened to it then go do that.
    afterstasis;4274475 said:
    More like HMXthebesttaste.
    Indeed, Energy is amazing to say the least.
  • BohemianMattBohemianMatt Headliner
    edited January 2011
    Operation Ivy DLC pretty please!!!

    I even made an Op Ivy shirt for RB2! (It's a little warped since the photo creator wasn't perfect :p) Too bad there aren't enough layers or enough space on the art maker to remake it for RB3. (hint, hint, wink, wink, say no more)

    I too would love Energy by Op Ivy as full album DLC. Unfortunately, I think the majority of the songs are under two minutes though. If it ever was offered, perhaps there could be some sort of mega-medley featuring the first half of the album together and the second half together. Hell, I'd play the entire thing through in one sitting if I could!

    I'd also love anything else Jesse Michaels has done; Common Rider, Classics of Love, etc. :D
  • ethannickersonethannickerson Unsigned
    edited January 2011
    skaboom by the toasters has lots of good songs in my opinion best ska band. also anything by madness
  • afterstasisafterstasis Washed Up
    edited January 2011
    Thread inspired me to put on some Don Drummond.
  • polkanunspolkanuns Opening Act
    edited January 2011
    TheAuthorityClinton;4274279 said:
    One of our authors plays in The Toasters and is on the road with them right now. When their next record is done we should be putting out a song or two from it.

    That would be one of my recs:

    The Toasters: New York Fever

    The Toasters are a great group that owes a lot to classic dancehall and the roots of ska while merging the newer sounds of acts such a Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, etc.
    New York Fever is a deep and rich album which showcases the Toasters diversity and soul. The title track is a fast romp, while "ploughshares" moves along the fun and "Too Hip to be Cool" funks it up into the ultimately groovy "Night Train".
    The rest of the tracks shouldn't be skipped though - the album is a well-constructed listen from start to finish. No, it's not a compilation like "In Retrospect" highlighting their history of tracks, but it's a deeper look into some of the soul behind the The Toasters, catching them in a artful snapshot.

    If you can catch them live --- DO IT. They are a fun show!

    /laments that his Wii wont see The Toasters DLC ... but at least others will have a chance 4 it!!!
  • edited January 2011
    Oh yeah!!!!!! This is the best day logging into to RB for a while , first clash london calling!!!! Then the Ska post , I am a rudie for life , this is what needs to be on rockband for a ska pack

    1 The Specials night club
    2 Madness one step beyond
    3 Bad Manners Inner London Violence
    4 The Selector Too much pressure
    5 The English beat Full stop
    6 The Toasters New york fever
    7 Laurel Aitken SAlly Brown
    8 Tokyo Ska Orchestra
    9 The Busters ruder than you
    10 The Hotknives anything off live and skanking
    I could go on and on , but RB needs classic vintage ska form UK and Europe , unfortunatley ska has a dork tag from all the hyper pop punkcore ska bands out there that came from the 90's I wont mention any names but U SUCK!! Ska is best in it's original Jamacian form or the 2tone and 3rd wave pop with a tinge of punk attitude , mod , skin and reggae soul vibes mixed in PLEASE BRING THE SKA , since rB came out so many of us have been waiting , hell there is enough counrty on here to choke a horse , and classic rock and modern rock are plentiful , give us some ska reggae , vintage uk OI! and 77 punk :)
  • Frieki7Frieki7 Unsigned
    edited January 2011
  • Stormfan Stormfan Opening Act
    edited January 2011
    I love 2tone era ska as well but my favourite ska track of all time comes from a band that I believe originated in Vancouver, BC called The Villains and the ep's title was Life of Crime. The name of the song is Ska Music. You might be able to hear it if you go the the Reverb Nation website. Anything by the Skatallites as well especially Surfing in Tofino. From the Stiff Records Box Set Desmond Dekkers fast uptempo version of The Israelites.
  • LoopyChewLoopyChew Wordsmith
    edited January 2011
    My original wishlist for RB3 included two ska songs. Specifically, The Toasters' "Dub 56" (off the album titled the same) and The Specials' "Gangsters" (off their eponymous album). Both albums in their whole would be awesome to have in-game, one way or the other (TheAuthorityClinton: When you announced Toasters songs for authoring, I pumped my fist in the air!). Granted, I'd be happy with any Toasters, but Dub 56 and Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down are particular favorites.

    Another favorite of mine is Eastern Standard Time's "Mad Dog" off of "Second Hand." I've heard it both as an instrumental and with lyrics, and either way, the main hook is a fantastic, brassy way of introducing someone to ska. I haven't heard the rest of the album, but that one song is fantastic in all forms.
  • RockoxRockox Road Warrior
    edited February 2011
    I love me some ska. Reel Big Fish, Operation Ivy, MU330, The Specials, Mad Caddies, The Aquabats, Goldfinger. A couple of my favourite tunes of all time:

    Skaface - "Bed of Nails"
    Dance Hall Crashers - "Lost Again"

    The various artist album Skarmageddon Vol. 1 was my bread n' butter back in the day.
  • edited February 2011
    I'm really happy so many of you have joined in!!

    I didn't mean to hate all over 3rd Wave, as it certainly produced a lot of great bands. I was just trying to illuminate why i think so many people hate on Ska in general, because they associate it with the "pop punk with horns" stuff.

    Here's another suggestions from me!!

    Toots and the Maytals - Time Tough (The Anthology)
    Toots is right up there with Desmond Dekker, and in fact may be a more important figure in bringing the second wave to England. The Specials and the Clash has both covered Toots' ubiquitous "Pressure Drop", with the Specials also making Toots' "Monkey Man" their own on their debut album. Toots is still out there touring today, and despite his age, still puts on a tremendously fun and joyful show. I urge you to check him out live while you still can!! Key Tracks: 54-46 That's My Number, Pressure Drop, Funky Kingston
  • berkthgarberkthgar Road Warrior
    edited February 2011
    Gowienczyk;4274350 said:
    Loved this. Thanks!
  • LoopyChewLoopyChew Wordsmith
    edited February 2011
    Also, we've gone through several mentions of The (English) Beat without mention of my personal favorite song, and one I forgot until now was also on my RB3 wishlist: Pato and Roger A Go Talk.

    While I'm here, let's link to live performances of the songs mentioned earlier:
    Dub 56
    Gangsters (on SNL)
    Mad Dog
  • edited February 2011
    LoopyChew;4282219 said:
    Also, we've gone through several mentions of The (English) Beat without mention of my personal favorite song, and one I forgot until now was also on my RB3 wishlist: Pato and Roger A Go Talk.

    While I'm here, let's link to live performances of the songs mentioned earlier:
    Dub 56
    Gangsters (on SNL)
    Mad Dog

    LOVE that old Specials footage. Dudes knew how to dress!
  • mg711mg711 Unsigned
    edited February 2011
    HMXPope;4282775 said:
    LOVE that old Specials footage. Dudes knew how to dress!

    Ruuude boyyyyys!!!!!! Ok so we all agree SKA rules , weather u r a 2tone and classic ska fan like me or a 3rd waver - WE NEED SKA ON ROCK BAND- so is there any news on ska packs :))))) I want to grab the mic set up the keys for organs and strum the plastic axe to the skankin beat - also if you want a good skankin reggae song DL the Clash Revolution rock
  • uppyb0tuppyb0t Opening Act
    edited February 2011
    I have a couple to add:

    Hepcat - Right On Time, Push 'N' Shove

    This band is just on point. Completely original and extremely talented. These two albums I believe are their best songs with their best lineup. Their songs are incredibly melodic and just put you in a great place. I can listen to these albums over and over. Incredible horn section.

    These albums also have one of my favourite drummers Scott Abels on it. I met him after seeing him perform with the Aggrolites here in Guelph, Ontario. This was after he had left the band, but came back to help out. It was quite a show, he really gets into the music and does standing rolls and just greatly entertaining.

    The Aggrolites came and hung out at a friends appartment after the show. That was pretty cool. Scott also played on the first Aggrolites album and on Tim Armstrong's solo album. He also drummed on Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards' second album Viking. As you can tell I'm a fan ;)

    Planet Smashers - Life of the Party, Mighty, Unstoppable

    This group is from Montreal and they are a very tight unit with some great songs and a nice relaxed mood. Any of these 3 albums is a great representation of how they've really honed their craft and show what you can bring to 3rd wave to keep it interesting and not so repetative.

    On the Mighty album they collaborate with one of The Specials on the second track. I've seen them many times since they're more local, just a province over, and it's always a great performance.
    I got up on the stage in Barrie, Ontario to sing Super Orgy Porno Party with them. Very cool band and they let you have fun.

    Westbound Train - Transitions, Come And Get It

    I actually saw this band with the Planet Smashers, but had no idea it was them. I heard them later on and loved the notes they used and the soul put into the music. I noticed I had unknowingly seen them when I looked through the album booklet and recognized the drummer. It was kind of funny how I had seen them live, but only now had a name to put to them.

    These guys are also very skilled and have collaborated with King Django, members of Hepcat, and have an incredible vibe.

    Check em all out!
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