Philadelphia Ska Revolution
Philadelphia ska compilation (Skully Enterprises)
By: Alex Steininger
Recorded live on September 1, 1997 at an all-day Skully Enterprises Ska festival, this compilation features ten young ska bands from the Philadelphia area.
Lucky #7 kicks off the CD, contributing one track to the compilation by the name of "The Way Things Are." Mixing in fast punk choruses with an energetic verse structure, this song gets you dancing for a while, before making your head spin with an assault of punk. The horns are done nice, stealing the show when they want to, and blending in with the music during other times. S.G.R., and their track "Romeo," brings us more ska-punk. The versus on this song aren't the best. The vocals are very high, and sound overbearing with the music. But the chorus, an attack of punk rock, is mighty infectious and gets you screaming along. Shrimp Skampi and the Skallops take the punk away, and give us music you can dance with. The horns are powerful, which is a good thing, because the band has no vocals. At the beginning of the song you hear the band mention, "we have no vocals, because we strongly believe if you can't sing...don't!" That's nice and all, but I can't imagine a whole set of third wave ska without vocals. Much like rock 'n roll, third wave ska needs vocals or the song gets repetitive and boring. Your mind will lose concentration on the music, and start to drift. Sure, traditional ska can pull off no vocals quite easy, but once you pick up the tempo and add a rocket fueled engine to the music, the vocals become a vital part. Maybe they should audition people who can sing? 5 Point O bring us some more punk influenced third wave ska with their "Girlfriend Song." The music is decent, and provides enough for you to dance with, but the vocals ruin the music. Too may "woo's" overpower the music. Maybe it's just the sound system at the festival, or maybe it's the band. Whatever it is, this band sounds very raw and immature musically. More practice and a few more shows, and they might be something good. The N.C. Thirteens sound damn good on "Coffee & Cigarettes," a ska-punk tune with heart and a punch. It starts out with a really quick, danceable feel to it. Then it jumps into a little punk whirl, before jumping back into some danceable ska driven by horns. Their other track, "Junkyard," is a little lighter, but just as good. The Ska Blazers end the CD with "Dr. Skankenstein." The music is good, traditionally influenced, third wave ska, but the vocals once again destroy the song.
A lot of these bands show a lot of promise, they just need to improve vocally, or tighten up as a band. That's expected, since they're all very young bands. Give them time, and some of these bands might be leaders in the ska world a few years down the road. But as it stands, this disc is for the most part a bunch of raw musicians at a very early stage in their careers. I'll give this CD a B-.
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