Chris Does SKA
Let's Go Bowling Mr. Twist (Moon/Ska Records)
A stirring harbinger of reggae, ska is awaiting its resurrection. Originating in Jamaica circa the '60s, ska has made some indispensable contributions to the musical community through such vanguards as the Skatalites, Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster and Laurel Aitken. In the late '70s, the Specials, Madness, Bad Manners and others combined the speed and intensity of punk with ska and injected it into the musical bloodstream of UK's hardcore junkies. The U.S., however, did not experience this gusto until the mid-'80s when acts such as Fishbone, the Untouchables and the Toasters decided to provide the ecstatic rush of ska.
In the '90s, the Third Reich of ska has been lead by such visible revolutionaries as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Rancid, Goldfinger and Sublime (oh, and No Doubt). But the true revolutionary movement of ska is still in the underground, where hardcore bands play small venues and steadily pump out vitality and sonority. Come Out Swing Tour brought that very allegiance Tuesday night to the Cat's Cradle. California's Let's Go Bowling led Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Reel Big fish on this 6-week mission to spread ska and to promote their latest release, Mr. Twist.
The opening act, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, surely know how to exhilarate and coax the audience into falling for them. Their set was a strange yet charismatic form of foreplay that is sometimes better than the main attraction. This seemed to be the case with their set. But by the climax of the set, LGB galvanized the audience with more kinetic energy than a pinball. The horn section was overdosing on Prozac, especially the trombonist who perpetually gyrated oh-so-provocatively and jumped around the cluttered stage for no apparent reason. The vocalist's true talent was veiled by the boisterous mixture of brass, psychedelic Hammond organ, forceful drums and other miscellaneous instruments. Reel Big Fish was there, too, but the postcoital phobia/sense of duty (for Calculus) kicked in, and I had to leave.
As I was coming back, I realized Let's Go Bowling had a Janus-like quality. On their CD, LGB seemed like a caged canary not knowing why it sang such melodious songs. However, on the stage, they allow their spirits to fly freely and captured the true essence of ska. With their newfound dynamics, they arouse the audience to move without hindrance. The manager of LGB agreed with me, saying, "They're [LGB] a live band...the CD doesn't do them justice."
Despite minor disappointment, their new CD is still "da bomb." I say this, because even my roommate, whose musical taste is the antithesis of mine, oddly likes this CD a lot. Through process of elimination, I came up with two conclusions: 1. She is in an extremely good mood for some "unknown" reason (wincus, wincus); or, 2. This band is actually good? With tracks like "Grover's Harem," "Mayhem," and "Sultan's Cross," I had to go with the latter reason. Another noteworthy song was "Uncomfortable Sidekick," the classic frat party theme "Bitch" disguised under a more PC name. The misogynistic yet jocular lyrics left even a gung-ho feminist like me rolling on the floor.
So, the clue of the day is Mr. Twist, a clear evidence of why LGB survived ten years as a domestic ska fave. The album is a must for all hidden skaphiles and those to be. If other ska bands can create more music in the vein of Let's Go Bowling, the rebirth of ska would only be a matter of time.