In an alternate dimension the god of ‘genres we used to like when we 16 but now deny all knowledge of now because it would dent our indie street-cred to the very coreâ€™ sits on a throne made of denunciation and regret. On his right hand sits the baseball cap wearing, cut-off sleeved, swear-o-thon that is nu-metal. On his left hand sits the Hawaiian shirt wearing, trombone-parping frivolity that is ska punk.Ã‚Â Yes, we have now reached the flip-side of ‘forgotten bands and genres’, with yet another feature, running through six of my personal favourite ska punk bands. There are quite a few names I wanted to include; Big D and the Kids Table, Reel Big Fish and The Pietasters to name a few, but really the focus will be on the six that really did influence my music taste and had a significant impact in developing my love for all things brass-filled.
Time active: 1997-2007
Sound: politically-charged, fast-paced skacore. The band experimented with elements of dub, hip hop and hardcore in their sound, making them truly standout from the legions of other chequered-loving acts that surrounded them. Vocalist Jake Sims-Fielding saxophone playing was a particular highlight, as where his sandpaper larynx and unusual, slurred singing voice.
High points: their live shows were always a riot and they packed out toilet venue after toilet venue and lived on the road during their 10 years together. Debut album ‘Civil Disobedientsâ€™ is considered by many underground music fans as a benchmark in UK punk rock. Touring with many high-profile punk bands such as Less Than Jake, Pennywise and Lagwagon. Being part of the Deconstruction tour, an incredible live set at Reading Festival in 2001, and tours with Bad Religion and Hundred Reasons.
Low points: The six year gap between their second album ‘Pound For The Soundâ€™ and the radically different sounding ‘Wind Up Toysâ€™ was a killer. With a couple of superb singles and 1 live album released between then, their fanbase drifted and soon lost interest in what was once one of the UKâ€™s most prolific bands.
Fast fact: The first gig I ever went to was Capdown at the lovely establishment known as Hitchinâ€™s Club 85. It cost Ã‚Â£4- great night that. Also, their name stands for Capitalist Downfall.
Recommended listening: both ‘Civil Disobedientsâ€™ and ‘Pound For The Soundâ€™ are strong albums, with the former having a more scrappier, punk rock edge as opposed to the slight hardcore leanings of the latter. Plus, ‘CDâ€™ has ‘Ska Warsâ€™ the bandâ€™s notable anthem.
Where are they now?: split up in November 2007, 9 months after the release of ‘Wind Up Toysâ€™. Bassist Boob and drummer Tim are both apparently working with Simon Wells from Snuff/Southport in a new band called The Maccalites. The whereabouts in the musical world of guitarist Keith, sax/vocalist Jake and keyboardist Eddie are unknown.
Time active: 1997-2003 (the band split up and reformed between 2006-2007 to play benefit shows.)
Sound: insane ska punk chaos from 7 men who would frequently get naked, use big cardboard pirate ships as stage props and generally twat about having more fun than any other band in the world ever. They retained a heavy, brash punk rock sound that was stuffed to bursting with parping brass and the quick-fire vocal delivery from vocalist Chas and trumpet player Neil.
High points: Their live shows, which were utter bedlam, plus like many bands of this ilk, touring their arses off. Shows with Capdown, Mad Caddies, Save Ferris and Nerf Herder, Suicide Machines and a place on the Concrete Jungle tent at the Carling Festival in 2002. They were also kicked off Steve-Os MTV Jackass tour for being too rowdy.
Low points: From a fanâ€™s point of view; splitting up. From their point of view â€â€œ very little. The toll of playing 300+ shows in 2 years must have drained and pushed the band to the point of exhaustion in their heyday.
Fast fact: Iâ€™ve seen Lightyear perform live on 8 separate occasions, which is more than any other band. Also, vocalist Chas signed a bit of paper to me saying ‘Clits, my dogs.â€™ What a guy.
Recommended listening: Their debut ‘Call of the Weasel Clanâ€™ is a great place to start and is probably one of the most consistent albums I own in terms of quality.
Where are they now?: defunct, but probably ready to reform one last time, should the great weasel signal be displayed in the skyâ€Â¦
Visual: Click on the player below to see Lightyear dressed as Bully, MR T, Marty Mcfly and Egon!
Band: Less Than Jake
Time active: 1992-present
Sound: despite several band members being hardcore metalheads, Less Than Jakeâ€™s sound is characterized by its third-wave ska punk tomfoolery and cheeky pop-punk bounce. Throughout their 17 years as a band, their sound has evolved into brass-tinged punk rock sheen from scrappy beginnings. Most of their songs stem from real life experiences and are about real people/areas in and around Gainesville where the band are located.
High points: Being one of the biggest and well-known ska punk bands in the world, Less Than Jake have built up a solid reputation in the mowhawk circles, thanks to their live performances, prolific song writing, solid back catalogue and commitment to their fans, not to mention the release of their 1998 album, ‘Hello Rockview.’
Low points: ‘In With The Out Crowdâ€™, an album which saw them depart from their ska punk sound that flooded so freely through their past releases. However, their return in 2008 with ‘GNV FLAâ€™ saw them combining this new pop-punk edge, with their brass backing to greater effect.
Fast fact: The band name stems from the dog of their drummer, Vinnie Fiorello. In Vinnieâ€™s house, the dog was treated better than everyone else and the name was born.
Recommended listening: ‘Hello Rockviewâ€™ (not because it has ‘All My Best Friendsâ€Â¦.) but due to the fact itâ€™s simply their best work, flows nicely, terrific selection of songs and the brass element has never sounded stronger. ‘Borders and Boundariesâ€™ is also a great starting album, as is 1996’s ‘Losing Streak‘ for a more rough ska-punk edge.
Where are they now?: still going strong and are set to appear on the Vans Warped Tour this year.
Band: Adequate Seven
Time active: 2000-2006
Sound: More funk-punk orientated than the ska leanings that other acts in this article display; but the A7 were familiar touring buddies of Lightyear and Capdown so they deserve a place. Riot-provoking hardcore funk, with a driving horn section, dancing trombone player and a superb collection of catchy, uplifting songs.
High points: signing to Household Name Records, releasing ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience‘ in 2003.Ã‚Â Their touring schedule rivaled Capdown’s for shear weight of artists involved, including Hundred Reasons, Fishbone, Lightyear, Cypress Hill, The Slackers and European tour with the Suicide Machines (see SM feature here) They went on to release their second album through their own label, before recording a live album and then splitting up in 2006.
Low points: splitting up really! They seemed to be at the top of their game, but I’m guessing the stress and pressure of touring finally called an end to proceedings, which is a real shame.
Fast fact: Their debut album title is taken from a William Blake poetry book.
Where are they now?: Defunct. Although I’m reliably informed that some members are working on new bands (vocalist Jamie is in a metal band now!) and bassist Will Davies is now in Attack! Attack! who are signed to Rock Ridge music and will be featuring on the next Guitar Hero. Nice work!
Band: Jesse James
Time active: 2000-2007
Sound: brass, brass and more brass. It was like someone had stuck the horn section from a marching band in a punk rock outfit and told them to get on with it. The horns were more in league with those of Rocket From The Crypt than the noisy frivolity of Reel Big Fish. Their live shows were never quiet, and relied on a barrage of sound and blasting energy, backed up by the quality of their songs and the passionate nature in which they were delivered.
High points: recording their second record ‘Mission‘ with Ryan Greene, (NOFX producer), being signed to Deck Cheese and Golf Records, both popular ska punk labels at the time,Ã‚Â ‘Shoes‘ being a massive and I mean massive underground hit and a stint in the punk tent at the Carling Festival in 2002.
Low points: losing members every so often and the pressures of touring.
Fast fact: their infamous ‘Dear Jesus’ video being banned by UK tv and they were the first band I ever reviewed for my University newspaper!
Recommended listening: Both the ‘Shoes’ and ‘Hotwired‘ Eps are a good starting point, but the debut ‘Punk Soul Brothers’ is worth a listen as is ‘Mission’.
Where are they now?: saxophone player Pete and guitarist Ben are now both part of tyrantcore 4 piece Down I Go.
Band: Leftover Crack
Time active: 1999-present
Sound: Like Dani Filth fronting a skacore band who can barely play their instruments. The Crack have a no-nonense, anti-everything style of raucous, mangled punk, with a vocalist who possibly eats broken glass for a living. As well as being fiercely anarchistic, angry and anti-government, Leftover Crack are actually one of the first bands to fuse ska with death metal. Youâ€™re probably shaking your head at this, but really, itâ€™s not that bad honest. Plus, they sounded pretty good most of the time.
High points: Having a strong following in the underground community and generally being a band that inspires hope, if a somewhat misguided yet angry hope within people.
Low points: Death of drummer Brandon Possible in 2004, plus numerous bannings from various venues around New York, Canada and vocalist Stzaâ€™s continuing trouble with the PoPo.
Fast facts: Their name is an oxymoron and their second album was delightfully entitled ‘Fuck World Trade.â€™ Stzaâ€™s previous band, Choking Victim released an album called ‘No Gods, No Managersâ€™ and featured no barcode.
Recommended listening: ‘Medicore Generica’ is 33 minutes of fucked-up skacore that has more crust than a steak and ale pie from a local truck stop.
Where are they now?: Still together (despite more line up changes than Zao) and set to tour America in June.
By Ross Macdonald