Friday, 2 November 2018

Column: United States Of Ska (Part Two)

Today we're continuing our look at some of the finest underground ska punk bands from the United States Of America. A couple of weeks ago I said some words about bands such as Be Like Max, The Fad, The Hempsteadys and Scheming Thieves, among others, which you should check out here. Then come back and learn about some more fantastic bands!

Bargain Bin Heroes
Florida's Bargain Bin Heroes are a high energy ska punk band who released an awesome eight track album this past year named Droppin' The Deuce. The five piece write infectious ska punk music that takes you back to the third wave whilst also managing to have a fresh sound. Listening to the album, something that really stands out is the great use of gang vocals throughout.

Beat The Smart Kids
Beat The Smart Kids are a five piece from Chicago. The band are made up of members of bands such as Waste Basket, Damn Tracks, Indecisives and, CPRW favourites, Still Alive. The band's most recent EP, 2017's Better Luck Next Time, is an absolute gem that combines skanking rhythms, joyous upstrokes, superb horn lines and raspy vocals brilliantly. Definitely a band that I'd love to see live.

The Captivators
As soon as I heard The Captivators' latest EP, Need A Lift?, I was hooked. I really enjoyed their own brand of ska music. Sounding like a more soulful Planet Smashers, this DC band sound like they could become a big deal within the scene. There is a serious amount of talent running through this band. Another band who sound like they must be the most amount of fun live and will get a crowd dancing with ease.

Codename: Rocky
Whilst researching bands for this pair of columns, I was quite surprised to see that Codename: Rocky were still a band. I first became aware of them sometime around the early 2000s and thought they were cool but never saw anything else from them. Well it seems that in 2016 they released a new album name Reboot and it's a lot of fun. With lots of energy and mind-blowing horns that put the biggest smile on my face, I'm so happy to be rediscovering Codename: Rocky.

Eli Whitney & The Sound Machine
Sadly Eli Whitney & The Sound Machine broke up in 2016 with four of the band's final line-up going on to form the amazing Cold Wrecks. I had to include this band in this column because their 2014 album Reasons To Leave is great. To be honest, it's probably the least ska sounding album on this list and you can hear the transition from Eli Whitney & The Sound Machine into Cold Wrecks. A great band worth checking out though.

Flying Raccoon Suit
Long time readers of CPRW may recognise the name Flying Raccoon Suit from our 2016 review of their EP Robot. What really helps Flying Raccoon Suit stand out amongst their contemporaries is the male/female vocals that add so much life into these songs. Sure, the horns, the guitars and the drums are superb but those vocals really give the band an added layer that makes me fall in love with them.

Hans Gruber and the Die Hards
I first became aware of Hans Gruber and the Die Hards when they were announced to play The Fest this year. Although I'm not going, I always like to dig through the line-up to find new favourite bands. Falling into the skacore/crack rock section of the genre, Hans Gruber's music is quite rough around the edges but this really adds to its charm. Doing something that's sonically quite different to a lot of bands currently in the scene is helping this Texan five piece really stand out.

The Holophonics
Another band hailing from Texas, The Holophonics started live as a ska punk cover band before becoming a fully DIY punk band. Self recording and releasing all of their releases including their latest album, Phantom Arrival, and playing uptempo and infectious ska punk, I was so pleased to discover that The Holophonics write amazing originals as well as being one of the best cover bands in the game. Surely that's a sign of a seriously talented band.

Kill Lincoln
Maybe one of the more established names in the American underground ska scene, Kill Lincoln are a band I've been aware of for a while but never really checked out until now. This was a massive mistake as they are completely up my street. High energy, bouncing horn lines and big choruses – what more could you possibly want in your ska punk? "Gang vocals" you say? They have those as well.

The Main Street Sweep
Combining ska, rockabilly, punk, lounge and swing, Pennsylvania's The Main Street Sweep describe themselves as "rock 'n' roll for ska fans." This is the perfect description of the band. Feeling more mature and restrained than the other bands in this column, you could also say that The Main Street Sweep is ska for rock 'n' roll fans.

The Taj Motel Trio
Georgia's The Taj Motel Trio has more than three members, according to their Facebook page they in fact have eight members. There's a fun fact about the band for you. They've also been going for twenty years this year so how I'm just coming across them I don't know. Having played with legends in the scene such as Big D & The Kids Table, Catch 22, Less Than Jake, Mustard Plug and Reel Big Fish, as well as opening for Bon Jovi, it feels as if it's about time that Taj's loud and fast ska punk is discovered by more and more people.

Thirteen Towers
When I started working on this piece Thirteen Towers were one of the first bands I discovered, due to their recently released EP Two-Banana Habit. The eight piece that features both male and female lead vocalists produce a catchy, pop infused style of ska punk that will have you dancing and singing along immediately. Two-Banana Habit is one of my favourite ska releases of the year.

The Waffle Stompers
The Waffle Stompers recently went viral thanks to their video of all six members of the band playing the hit song Somebody That I Used To Know on a single Ukulele. Before becoming Internet sensations, the band from New Jersey have been playing their "post-ska" songs all around the United States and gaining fans wherever they've played. In 2017, after twelve years, The Waffle Stompers released their debut full length, Therapy Songs, where they play songs about realising that you are not alone and that there are always people willing to help you.

This column was written by Colin Clark.

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