If you want to guarantee yourself a good night out, go to see a ska band. Screw whatever watered down house music is fashionable this week, screw the pseudo sophisticated student bollocks for chin stroking wannabees, if you want to actually enjoy your night, a ska band will do the job every time. Despite what the revisionist histories of pop culture may tell you, two tone never ended. Here’s a short introduction to some of the bands carrying the torch in our neck of the woods at the moment…
Cracked Actors are the only band in this piece to get two videos featured due to grandad rights. They’ve been around since 1999. Despite numerous line up changes and never hitting the fabled “big time” they’ve maintained an active presence in the West Midlands throughout all those years, as well as playing festivals such as Glastonbury and Bearded Theory. They’ve also released five albums. The track “Flowers” above is taken from their early classic “Bard For Life”. Below is the video for the track “Tea” taken from their latest album “Writ In Stone” which showcases the skills of their latest generation of recruits. Upcoming shows include Sutton Town FC on October 9th or The Crown (Kings Heath, Birmingham) on October 31st, click the facebook link for more details.
For the longest time Lobster were the smart mouthed scrappy underdogs of the scene. Every timer I saw them they were playing great sets in tiny pubs, slowly working the rough edges off their sound. However, their fortunes seem to have changed in the last year or so. Releasing the tracks “Queen’s Head Hunter” and “Here Comes The Lobsteppa” earlier this year seems to have resulted in a rash of high profile slots for the band, such as opening for chart bothering skate bros OPM the other week. The next couple of months sees them supporting By The Rivers at The Rainbow, playing the esteemed Reggae City event with Macka B at Birmingham’s Custard Factory and launching their own club night Lobster Shack at the Hare and Hounds. For more information on the band, follow this link to read our interview with them from earlier in the year or follow the link below.
Possibly the most immediate of the bands featured in this article, this ten piece ska army have been building a very enthusiastic following over the last few years, a fact that was driven home to me when I saw them play at Boomtown earlier this year to around a thousand people at 2am. Though they’ve been known to throw in the odd crowd pleasing cover such as Folsom Prison Blues, they stake their claim to greatness with songs such as the one above. You could argue that the band have better songs than “K-Hole” and they certainly have songs with more elaborate videos. However this one never fails to bring a smile to my ageing, cynical face. Their next show is the Skalloween gig at the Wagon and Horses on October 31st. Read our interview with Chas and Dave styled singer Mike Parker here or follow the facebook link below for more information.
Every genre has it’s own selection of cliches that lazy bands indulge in and ska is no exception. Malarkey avoid the “Specials + some late nineties American stuff” trap that so many modern ska bands fall into by working in all manner of outside influences, from hardcore dancehall to what ever weird heavy guitar music that singer/guitarist Professor Kyle listens to. This is why I chose the above track, because there genuinely isn’t a party like a Malarkey party. The very real malice and energy found in this band coupled with their mismatched Bash Street Kids vibe combines to give them a unique punch that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Hear the debut album here and find their facebook details below.