Ska is a very underappreciated genre of music. Just about everyone will know a ska song even if they don’t realise that it’s ska. There are people who are aware of its existence who dismiss it by saying that it all sounds the same. This really grates on me as I find ska to be a extremely varied genre of music. I assume the people who think this are basing their ska “knowledge” on The Specials and Madness or Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake. At the moment there is a great ska scene in the UK, full of lots of varied and extremely talented bands. After making myself a playlist of my favourite underground punk bands there other day (if you missed it check it out here) I decided to do another dedicated to my favourite bands that play ska.
1. Beat The Red Light – Rut from Salt The Lands
Armed with one of my favourite band names Beat The Red Light are a group from High Wycombe who fuse thrash, hardcore, metal, punk and ska to create some of the most aggressive ska around. In a live setting they come at you like a bullet train, hitting you hard and not relenting until the end of their journey.
2. Buster Shuffle – At The Bank from Our Night Out
Buster Shuffle are a band from London who play some extremely catchy two-tone ska similar to Madness. It’s good fun, up-tempo pop music that everyone will instantly fall in love with and will be humming along with fro days.
3. Cartoon Violence – Vauxhall Nova from Whatever Happened To The Likely Lad?
Welsh band Cartoon Violence is another band playing the two tone genre of ska. Featuring members from bands such as Three Minute Warning and Smoke Like A Fish Cartoon Violence brilliantly mix two tone with classic indie Brit Pop storytelling they really grab your attention.
4. ClayPigeon – Compass from EP3
ClayPigeon are one of the most creative bands in the scene currently, expertly mixing ska, punk and drum and bass to create a sound all of their own. Compass is a song about people being accountable for their actions. The lyrics display some great social commentary and it’s another song with an insanely catchy chorus.
5. Dirty Revolution – Failure To Communicate from Before The Fire
Cardiff’s Dirty Revolution play what they call tropical reggae ska music. It contains the bouncy upstrokes of ska, the laid back nature of reggae and gives you the feeling of being at a fantastic carnival. It makes you want to dance. There is serious content within the songs though, with lyrics about racism, relgion, politics as well as some social commentary. Dirty Revolution are a fantastic band on record and live. Sadly they are calling it a day this year so catch them while you still can.
6. Faintest Idea – Bull In A China Shop from The Voice Of Treason
Faintest Idea are a ska punk band from Kings Lynn in Norfolk. Their brand of ska punk and a hint of oi is extremely danceable. One of the most entertaining live bands I’ve seen in a long while expect to be covered in sweat after having a good old fashioned skank to these boys.
7. Fandangle – Cheap Escape from Fly Away
Fandangle first came to my attention in the middle of the 2000’s not long before they split up. Last year they got together to play some shows and in the summer of this year I finally got a chance to see them at Slam Dunk Festival. They were absolutely amazing. High energy, catchy and most importantly fun songs that you can sing and dance to.
8. The Filaments – Tales From The Barside from Land Of Lions
Essex band The Filaments have been going since the new millennium and are one of the most popular and respected bands in the scene. Mixing hardcore punk with ska to create a sound that will get crowds moshing and skanking in equal measure. Last year released long awaited album Land Of Lions which includes the excellent Tales From The Barside, a song about a promoter from essex and mentions many different venues in the Essex area including Colchester’s Soundhouse.
9. Ghouls – London’s Burning from Ten Thousand Words On
Ghouls are a relatively young band from London and are one of my top finds in the past year. I’ve read them described as a cross between gypsy punks Gogol Bordello and ska punk legends Streetlight Manifesto and it’s a good comparison. The rhythm section is tight, the brass is energetic and their front man is very watchable.
10. Gone and Lost it – You’re At Fault from Demo CD
Nottingham ska punks Gone and Lost It are a band on the rise. Having just played the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool this five piece play fast and urgent pop punk and lace it with enough ska to keep fun and danceable.
11. The Hostiles – Where Are You from Always Looking Forward
Scottish band The Hostiles bring a ska punk sound mostly known from the USA to the far chillier shores of Scotland. Having toured with Reel Big Fish and shared the stage with the likes of Less Than Jake, Streetlight Manifesto, The Toasters and The Mad Caddies to name just a few you can tell where the bands influences lie.
12. Imperial Leisure – Man On The Street from The Art Of Saying Nothing
There are a lot of very good live bands across all genres of music in the UK. I don’t think that any are better at getting a crowd moving than Imperial Leisure. Their live shows are a non-stop party from start to finish; the energy levels from the band are ridiculous. Musically they are very broad as well, with songs including a mixture of styles like ska, punk, hip hop and a little electronica.
13. The JB Conspiracy – Take Flight from The Storm
The JB Conspiracy are an incredibly underrated ska punk band from London. They are a seven piece band incorporating four horns in their line up. As you would expect the horns are what drives the songs forward and give them life. Not that the rest of the band are too shabby either, with guitarist and lead singer Matt Carson’s voice really standing out against many of his contemporaries.
14. The Jellycats – T-W-A-T from When I Do
The Jellycats are a band that have gone from strength to strength other the past two years. Fresh and fun ska punk with a very British twist is what The Jellycats offer in abundance. Having already played Download, Hevy and Slam Dunk festivals as well as support slots with the likes of The Aquabats, The Beat and most recently Reel Big Fish The Jellycats are showing no signs of slowing down.
15. Jimmy The Squirrel – This One’s For You from Jimmy The Squirrel
Jimmy The Squirrel are a ska band from Nottingham and London. Mixing genres such as ska, reggae, indie, punk, soul and rock they have built up a solid fan base. Its great chilled up music for lazy days sitting in the sun with friends.
16. King Prawn – The Dominant View from Got The Thirst
Godfathers of the underground ska scene, King Prawn returned last year after a long break to show the current crop of bands just how it’s done. Mixing every genre of music they possibly can they have cooked up a unique concoction of sound. King Prawns songs are as current now as they were when they were first released, making their return vitally important.
17. Liam O’Kane – Taxi Man from Happy Days Sad Songs
Liam O’Kane is the front man from Jimmy The Squirrel. Whilst not with his full band he also plays and releases material as a solo artist. Great stripped back acoustic ska.
18. Mr Shiraz – Rut from I’m Invincible, I’m Built Like A Sherman Tank Somebody Try And Stop Me
Huddersfield’s Mr Shiraz are an band that mixes ska, punk and metal to great effect. Combining the aggression of punk and metal and adding an upbeat feeling with ska horns and a quick fire vocal delivery makes Mr Shiraz a very exciting band to watch.
19. New Town Kings – Change from Pull and Rewind
I’ve spoken off my love for Colchester’s New Town Kings many times on this blog. Playing a modern version of traditional Jamaican ska music the Kings have built up a reputation as one of the brightest bands on the scene. Boasting probably the best horn section of all the bands in the underground scene, a very tight rhythm section and a captivating new(ish) front man in Dabs look out for even bigger things from the phenomenal band.
20. Random Hand – Not A Number from Seething Is Believing
Another band that mixes ska, punk and metal to amazing effect are Random Hand from Keighley. Random Hand have been the kings of the skacore genre for a number of years now combining a great live show with songs with political and social commentary. Every time I’ve seen Random Hand it’s been one of my favourite gigs, check them out now!
21. Rebelation – Reggae Woman from State Of The Union
Rebelation formed in 1994 and have now been playing their brand of ska, reggae and rocksteady music for twenty years. Crafting their sound with a strong horn section and dual male and female harmony vocals backed by a powerful rhythm section the songs are catchy and will get everyone tapping their feet.
22. Robb Blake – Breaking My Balls from No Time To Waste
Robb Blake was the front man for early 2000’s ska punk band Whitmore. When they broke up he continued to put out music as a solo artist calling himself “The One Man Ska Explosion.” More stripped back acoustic ska with a hint towards his past Whitmore days.
23. The Skints – Contemplations Of A Modern Rude Boy from Live.Breathe.Build.Believe
Probably the biggest success story to come out of the underground ska scene is The Skints. It’s hard to think of them as an underground band anymore such is their popularity. Mixing reggae and ska with a three pronged vocal assault that sounds distinctively London. If you haven’t heard The Skints yet it won’t be long until you do.
24. Slagerij – Can’t Stop A Nation from Oh Yeah
Slagerij (I have no idea how to properly pronounce it) are a three piece ska punk band from Swindon. After forming in 2007 they have worked relentlessly to put out a debut EP and two self recorded and produced albums out filled with infectious party ska punk. Like all great bands should be they are at their very best live, creating mayhem amongst a crowd whilst retaining complete control of their own performance
25. Sonic Boom Six – Sunny Side Of The Street from Sunny Side Of The Street – Single
Manchester genre terrorists seem to have been around for a very long time now and are showing no signs of stopping. Having started out as a skacore band they have evolved their sound over the years to implement many different types of music. Despite this they have always stayed true to their message of unity and have never shied away from their love of the genre of ska.
26. [Spunge] – Skanking Song from Too Little Too Late
Tewkesbury’s finest ska punk band [Spunge] have now been a band for twenty years. After releasing four albums full of catchy, danceable, sing along songs last year they released a greatest hits album. Live they show no signs of slowing down, constantly playing high energy entertaining shows up and down the country.
27. Stand Out Riot – Count For Something from The Gentlemen Bandits
Stand Out Riot are a skacore band from the North West of England. Boasting a highly unique sound featuring three horn players and a violinist, Stand Out Riot hit you from every angle. A lot of energy comes from their music, it’s played with a lot of urgency and the multiple vocalists make you wonder exactly what is coming next.
28. Tallowah – Strong & Sturdy from Strong & Sturdy
Tallowah are a seven piece reggae band from Southend. What I love about Tallowah is how lead singer Joe Garners voice acts as much as a musical instrument as the trombone, the trumpet or any other instrument in the band does. It drives the melody of the song forward and is a joy to hear.
29. Tyrannosaurus Alan – Bombard The BBC from Campaign
Tyrannosaurus Alan (shortened to T//alan) are a band from Medway in Kent who use ska, punk and grime to create a sound all of their own. Having briefly split up at the end of 2012 returned less than a year later to everyone’s relief. Scarily talented for such a young band, a fantastic horn section and a great set of vocalists mixing rap and actual singing brilliantly. Bombard The BBC is a fantastic track and has been my ringtone for a long time now.