Aquabats To Be A Cartoon.

Posted on December 1st, 2008 by JJ Loy

Maybe you’ve seen them battle evil bands, like Mephiskapheles, in live rock operas. Or maybe you’ve seen them appear on Yo Gabba Gabba from time to time.  But are you ready to experience The Aquabats as a fully animated cable adventure show?

I am.

Comments (3) Dec 01 2008

Winehouse Does The Ska

Posted on July 7th, 2008 by JJ Loy

Earlier this year, I followed a link to an underdeveloped MySpace page that boasted some Specials covers by the retro-licous, Amy Winehouse.  These not-so-impressive tracks were obviously demos and weren’t worth repeated listenings- let alone an official release.  That’s why I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to check out what’s been described as her Ska EP, when I read about it here and here.

Man, was I wrong.  Winehouse’s versions of Monkey Man, Hey Little Rich Girl, You’re Wondering Now and Cupid are clean and polished- spic and span.  Cupid is done as an upbeat Reggae tune while the others are arranged a lot like the Specials’ versions, but Winhouse’s vocal flourishes save the tracks from feeling unnecesarry.

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But the tracks from iTunes from the Back to Black B-Sides Collection

Or if you want The Ska EP for Free.

Comments (3) Jul 07 2008

Ska vs Ska-Punk; The Debate Continues

Posted on June 5th, 2008 by JJ Loy

In my most recent episode with Babylon Party Machine’s Matt Wixson, he said that Ska-Punk was “loosing ground” in the mid-west and predicted that the style of music was not long for this world. Mark from The Green Room Rockers made a similar sentiment in the episode before it, and you’ll be hearing a little more criticism form The Impaler’s Lars Nylander in next weeks episode.

All of this Punk-Ska nay-saying didn’t sit right with my new listener, Steve. He wrote:

I’m not sure Punk-ska is going away any time soon. I’m a bit confused as to why traditional ska fans dislike punk ska. I liked (didn’t love) Bid D’s last album, and don’t see them going away.

I can’t answer for all of you, but I formed a few thoughts on the matter and sent it off to Steve in the hopes of enlivening a debate. I responded:

I appreciate you listening and especially commenting. I really don’t hear enough from my subscribers.

I’m not going to tell you that you are wrong. Tone can be misinterpreted in emails, so I don’t want to sound argumentative- I just want to state my point and ask a few more questions.

I was brought up on Ska-Punk. MU 330 and The Urge are big 3rd Wave style Ska bands from my city, St. Louis. I still love Skankin Pickle, The Bosstones… too many to mention. However, I realized around ’98 that there was a huge deficit between Ska-influenced and traditional style ska. As the Ska-Punk bands stopped touring around the same time, I started looking back on older recordings. Discovering what was special about two-tone (no pun intended) also made me appreciate the distinctions between Ska and Ska-influenced. This older music spoke to me on a much deeper level than any ironic “ska” cover that Big D will ever crank out.

It wasn’t just the older ska that stuck with me after the third wave; bands like The Slackers and other bands playing in the traditional style were giving me something new to enjoy while staying authentic. I noticed that most of the newer bands were playing this True Revivalist Ska, Jump Ups catalog started filling up with neo-Trad artists, The Aggrolites hit the scene- I wanted to start a website with a focus on Trad, and I new that there would be an audience for it. I was correct.

I’m not trying to be divisive, but I am critical. I don’t want to run a site that simply loves all things ska, I want a site that recommends good music- that has interviews with great artists. I’m not going to listen to another Big D record- I’m not going to interview a guy from Less Than Jake- because I don’t like it. And I’ve found that there are a few hundred people in the world that seem to agree with me.

There are TONS of Ska sites that love everything Ska. Checkerboard this, and Rude Boy that, and Ska-Punk all over the place. Check out Silly Gillman, Ska Skank Radio or Just Add Ska for people doing cool things with a broader focus.

But tell me your story. You’ve made the move to defend this music, and I’d love to give you an opportunity. What’s good about Ska-Punk now? Am I wrong, and there are some Trad respecting Punks playing still? If you didn’t exactly love the new Big D album- are there any other new releases that you do love?

Write back. Tell me I’m wrong. Write me a new asshole if you want- I’ll publish our correspondence on SBB and see what people think.

-JJ

Steve responds:

“The Shit is Goin’ to the Dogs” –The Supaflies

Hey JJ,

I appreciate your e-mail back. I was under the assumption that your blog/site encompassed all aspects of ska, but it seems like in your response that your site is more towards trad ska. Which is fine, I personally like both types, or all types for that matter..

I have been a ska fan for years. It is all I listen too (aside from some hardcore), and all I will listen to. I vividly remember the first time I heard “ska”. I made a painting about it. It affected me that much. (I’ve attached the pic.)

This was my senior year of high school, so we are talking ’89. Bloomington Illinois (not too far away from st. louis) I was hanging out with some “punk rockers”, although how punk rock can someone from the Midwest be? Someone put Operation Ivy on the turn table and the rest is history. I now live in Evanston with a wife and two kids, but I’ve never let go of ska.

My experience is not “special”, there are thousands of little suburbanites who listen to Op Ivy. But the hectic tempo effected me like heroin, and I’ve tried to match that hectic beat since. Some bands have it, most do not.

For me, ska is about the beat. Either trad ska or punk ska, I’ve tried to gather music that makes you jump. It can be heard on “Do the Dog”, “Too Much Too Young” but I’ve found that the punk ska captured closer to the initial feeling. Bands like MU330, Slapstick, and Suicide Machines come close.

This is just my opinion, but a lot of the trad ska right now is too groove oriented. It doesn’t sound like a beat you can dance to. It sounds like reggae. In my opinion, ska should be danced to. Now, it’s hard to dance to punk ska, but a lot of it makes me jump.

I don’t want to go on too long, but there is a lot of trad ska that I love. Recent stuff that makes me dance include “reggae hit la” and “lucky Streak”. But a lot of it is instrumental, which makes me want to slit my wrist. “Strictly Rude” was uneven, but for some reason the beat on “Shining on” makes me jump more than any of Dr. Ring Ding’s latest.

It’s all about the beat.

I could go on and on. But It’s just my opinion.

Steve

What do you guys think? Are you a fan of both styles? Do you love one and not the other? Does Neo-Trad need to overpower Ska-Punk to be successful or can they both exist in harmony? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Thanks again, Steve, for sharing your thoughts and art with all of us- I hope you find your dancin’ groove in some of the music here on Ska Blah Blah.

Comments (16) Jun 05 2008

Take it or Leave it – Top 5′s of 2007

Posted on January 2nd, 2008 by JJ Loy

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now living in a New Year. It’s a time to reflect on the year before, a time to ask, “what were the best Ska and Reggae albums of the past 12 months?” More importantly, it’s a time where I answer that very question, in the form of various Top 5 lists.

Top Ska Albums

  1. The Pietasters – All Day I hesitate to call this a Ska album since it is largely Reggae with a fair share of Rock n’ Roll and Garage mixed into the track list. But the Pietasters will always be a Ska band at heart, and this album is their best yet.
  2. The Pepperpots – Shake It! I’d really like to hear the Pepperpots get a bit rawer. Shake It! is fantastic all over, although sterile at times. These girls are onto something.
  3. The Skatalites – On the Right Track I’ve reviewed this album previously, so to make a long story short: It’s far from the original line-up, but this album delivers new songs in the quintessential, straight forward Ska that you would expect.
  4. Kingston Kitchen – Today’s Special Not a full album, but Dr. Ring Ding fronts this Jazzy outfit through 6 tracks that push the stylistic boundaries of Ska-Jazz.
  5. Deals Gone Bad – The Ramblers These guys seem poised to be major players in the Ska scene. This album, once started, has a tendency to play all the way through. The soulful vocals and jazzy solos keep my fingers off of the skip button. But don’t rest on your laurels yet DGB, with power comes responsibility.

Top Dub Albums

  1. The Drastics – Waiting Easily my most played album of last year, and I haven’t had it for very long. Their brand of Dub is heavy and multifaceted, but never a nuisance. It’s mellow enough to be background music, but experimental enough to pay attention too. It is perfect Dub.
  2. Crazy Baldhead – Has a Posse Agent Jay has a very home made approach to Dub, and his recording aesthetic directly effects the end product. Warm and analog- very Version City.
  3. Ticklah – Ticklah vs Axelrod Brilliant Ska and Jazz Dubs in the style of Victor Rice. Rice is, in fact, on about half of the tracks. However, unlike In America, TvA has vocal tracks by a handful of musicians, while Rice tends to play straight instrumentals. I predict big things for Ticklah in the coming years.
  4. The Eternals – Heavy International This is not the mellow Dub Reggae that you used to see in the genre, this is noisy- circus style syncopation with mind warping effects, urban poetry and unsteady beats. The Eternals aggression has not fallen on deaf ears.
  5. Unnamed – The Good, The Bad and The Queen Damon Albarn now has side projects to his side projects. Blur and The Gorillaz front man, teamed up with the Clash’s Paul Simonon and Danger Mouse. Not a Dub album, and certainly not a Reggae album, GBQ is slow tempo Rock with moody Dub elements that make it worth mentioning here.

Top Early/Skinhead Reggae

  1. The Aggrolites – Reggae Hit LA My downstairs neighbor must hate it when I play this disc, because nothing gets my feet going like The Aggrolites.
  2. Tim Armstrong – Life of a Poet This record, backed by The Aggrolites is like a night out with the band and Armstrong, themselves. The tempo is steady and the drop is Skinhead, but there’s a Punky- sometimes Clubby sound to Life of a Poet.
  3. Green Room Rockers – Hoosier Homegrown These guys seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and now they’re winning over audiences on the East Coast. There is room for them to grow still, but a very impressive first album.
  • I have to give Honorable Mention to a few other bands who had Early-Style Reggae offerings from 2006, but didn’t become easily available (to me) until this last year. The Upsessions and The Caroloregians both released records that would have rivaled The Aggrolites for the top spot. I hope that in ’08 I will hear more from both bands.

Favorite Tracks

  1. Dr. Ring-Ding and Vic Ruggiero – What it Takes
  2. Tim Armstrong – Inner City Violence
  3. The Slackers – Mind Your Own Business
  4. The Pietasters – G to F
  5. Bedoin Soundclash – Nico on the Night Train

Albums Worth Mentioning

Some of these listed here are being noted for being torch carriers in other revivalist genres; and some for adeptly mixing various traditional sounds. It’s this that I look for in music, Jamaican influenced or not.

  1. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – 100 Days 100 Nights
  2. Antibalas – Security EP
  3. Beastie Boys – The Mix Up
  4. Manu Chao – La Radiolina
  5. Ozomatli – Don’t Mess with the Dragon

Comments (0) Jan 02 2008

Marley explains the Jamaican Music styles

Posted on December 5th, 2007 by JJ Loy

I know you know the difference, and you know that I know the difference, but if you know someone that doesn’t- you should show them this video.

It’s Bob Marley off-handedly clarifying the beats that differentiate Ska, Reggae, and Rocksteady, in a ’70′s interview.

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Comments (2) Dec 05 2007