Review Summary: Have Nots prove that ska is not (completely) dead in 2011
Let’s face it, the ska scene isn’t exactly thriving. Sure, bands like Less than Jake and Big D and the Kids Table keep chugging along, and there’s always Streetlight Manifesto, but they haven’t released an album since ’07. There are several new ska bands that are keeping the genre going, but ska isn’t what it was in ’97. Ska is often viewed as a one-dimensional genre, but there’s always a few bands that are either innovative enough or are just so darn fun that make the genre worthwhile. Have Nots, a punk/ska band out of Boston, are keeping things fresh. Proud has slightly less of a ska influence than Serf City USA, their debut album, but it is just as good.
Have Nots play a brand of ska/punk that has a lot of melody to it, and they do not have a horn section. Because of this, they have often been compared to acts such as The Suicide Machines or Operation Ivy. They almost sound like Rancid, but with more ska influence and more aggression.
Proud features 13 great tracks of punk and ska fun, plus one bonus track. They have all the aspects that make good ska-punk songs. There's the pounding drums, the catchy basslines, and the contrast between the ska riffs and the aggressive punk chords. The vocals are rough around the edges, and the singing can range from slow and understandable to hyper speed punk vocals. The lyrics are often about things such as politics, the economy, and just everyday life. They talk about mundane jobs, domestic abuse, and other common issues that they feel passionately about. The songs on the album are consistently fun and catchy, and most of them feature some sort of ska riff. “Louisville Slugger” is such a catchy song that you’ll probably be singing along to before it’s even over. It’s one of the more relaxed songs on the album. One great aspect of this album is the fact that it is diverse, while still maintaining the same vibe and sound throughout the album. There are melodic punk anthems (Proud, The Brink, All or None), laid-back ska tracks (Secret Machines, Dead Man, Some of Mine), and fast-paced ska-punk songs such as Where in the World. The album is cohesive, and flows relatively well. It’s not too long, and it doesn’t really get boring. Proud is a very strong album, but it definitely has its share of flaws.
While the album is diverse for a ska album, the songs tend to run together a bit. The listener can get lost somewhere in the middle of the album, and some of the tracks are forgettable. Parts of the album could be seen as “generic.” However, the positives far outweigh the negatives on this release. But if you don’t like ska at all, this album isn’t for you. If you want to skank around for a while, give Proud a spin. It’s melodic, tons of fun, and will get your feet moving. Proud is not the perfect album, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and shows great potential for the future of Have Nots and for ska in general.