Review Summary: Skank on, true ska fans!
If you look around at what's left of ska, it's easy to see that most of the artists we describe as great reach the heights they reach because they've outgrown the checkered white and black pants they started in and expanded their wardrobe. Sure, they keep the horns around and they play some of their early third wave songs, but is anyone really going to skank to The Hands That Thieve
or ...And The Battle Begun
? Big D and the Kids Table are no exception, either, with Fluent In Stroll
reinventing the ska game in yet another branch extending from the rapidly thinning and decaying third wave ska tree. It really does seem like evolve or die is the law of the ska land. And if there was any curiosity left to the contrary, you'd think that the terrible failure of Big D's attempt at a third wave revival in For the Damned, the Dumb, and the Delirious
put the nail in the coffin.
Yet, somehow, we're gifted with Stomp
- an album that brings back the true aspect of punk that "ska punk" has been missing while blending it with enough surf rock influence, goofy, rapid lyrics, and unabashed horn-fueled fun to make it one of the best core ska releases to grace the modern day. Think about that first time you played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and heard Goldfinger's "Superman" - that's what I'm taking about here: ska tracks that just make you picture people hanging out, grinding rails in the sun and laughing about it with a drink afterward. Everything here pulls back to that fun original spirit of ska that's almost been lost in the depth and progression of its top artists and it's a welcome return.
Maybe it all goes back to the prominence of upstroked guitar chords. Maybe it goes back to the fast, punk-based tempo. Or maybe it's the brass taking on more of a big band sound than the Latin tones we've come to hear more and more of. Whatever the case may be, the upbeat, memorable choruses of songs like "Pitch 'n' Sway" and "Social Muckary" drive Stomp
to success on the basis of a polished, true-to-its-roots ska sound that's all but extinct in music today.
Of course, even though true-to-ska-punk approach is Stomp
's primary selling point, much like predecessor Strictly Rude
, it's shining star is an out-of-norm, particularly polished and upbeat track. While Strictly Rude
introduced stroll to the world with "Shining On," Stomp
gives us "Pinball," which stops short of reinventing things and just provides one of the most laid back and positive summer tracks we're likely to hear for some time. The song may be a bit deeper than the rest of the album (well, deeper than yelling about some guy named Terry who apparently can't spell properly while tattooing people) and it shows a songwriting maturity that we usually equate with elevating a ska band beyond the genre trappings.
But it's a shining star that stands apart from a collection of other pretty great-looking celestial bodies. Sure, this isn't a defining or reinventing album, but it's one you're going to want to listen to over and over again if you're a fan of ska music. Maybe that sounds a little simple, but sometimes enjoying music is a little easier than sitting in your basement obsessing over finding the next mind-blowing band with big ear-obscuring headphones on. With Stomp
Big D and the Kids Table have given the raceflag-apparel sporting few something great to drive along to all summer long and in my book, that's something worth celebrating.
So skank on, true ska fans! You deserve at least one album like this every blue moon.