In Rear-View: Ska Against Racism

There were so many great bands included on this compilation that it was too much to tackle alone in a timely manner. So this round, Bree and Laura each picked the bands that excited them

There were so many great bands included on this compilation that it was too much to tackle alone in a timely manner. So this round, Bree and Laura each picked the bands that excited them the most and decided to review their songs specifically without actually listening to the album first. It made for a totally different experience. Laura kicks off the review…. 

On September 4th, 2020, Bad Time Records & Asian Man Records, along with Ska Punk Daily, released the Ska Against Racism Benefit Compilation. Featuring 28 ska and ska-punk acts, this comp took the entire community by surprise as it sold out two separate times on vinyl in under 24 hours. Mike Park, creator of Asian Man Records and Ska Against Racism, says, “In 2020, I think there’s just so much division right now. People in the ska scene, like Mike from Bad Time Records and Phil from Ska Punk Daily…they really encouraged me to do something. It’s something that even during a pandemic, we can get behind and through the power of music, we can still make a difference.” Raising over $55,000, all proceeds from the compilation are being donated to The Movement for Black Lives, The Conscious Kid, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Black Girls Code, and The Alpha Institute. 

Tim Timebomb Ft Jesse Michaels: “Living In A Dangerous Land” – This dance party starts up and listeners are punched in the face with the sweet sounds of Tim Armstrong and Jesse Michaels. Yes, you read that correctly. This collaboration is the pair’s first since the days of Operation Ivy. 31 years later, the stars aligned and “Living In A Dangerous Land” was born. Loaded with harmonies, heavy upstrokes, and relevant lyrics, this song is like a beautiful mix of Common Rider and Rancid. Starting the comp off with such a powerful duo on such a powerful track was a smart move and sets the tone for the rest of the album. 

The Chinkees: “Run For Help” – Mike Park’s ska band, The Chinkees, brings listeners back to the early 2000’s. For those unfamiliar with him…he is the reason we are here right now listening to this compilation. Founder of Asian Man Records and Ska Against Racism, Mike Park has done some amazing things for our scene. Hailing from San Francisco, this band is fueled by heavy upstrokes, organs, positivity, and equality. This track is originally off the 2001 album, Present Day Memories, a split with The Lawrence Arms. Hearing this song after something so fresh and new, created almost a sense of nostalgia for me and kept me dancing. 

Hepcat: “Nigel” – Hepcat has been supplying the world with the smooth sounds of reggae mixed with ska and jazz since 1989 and they show no signs of stopping anytime soon. This Southern California band delivers a fresh version of their classic 1998 tune off of their record Right On Time to slow things down a bit following The Planet Smashers’ dance party. This “Quarantine Version” of “Nigel” somehow provides listeners with even more of that Jamaican jazz/soul vibe Hepcat is known for. Fear not, you’re still dancing here! After all, he’s “the rudest of the rude!” 

Less Than Jake: “The Sit Around” – Greeted by the beautiful sound of horns, this song is a brand new track from the Gainesville, Florida ska-punk band. With highly relevant lyrics regarding 2020’s pandemic quarantine, listeners can instantly relate as they continue to dance. You’ll be singing “never thought it’d be so hard to sit around” for days on end. The horn break mid song mixed with Chris DeMake’s distinct voice is classic LTJ. 

Suicide Machines: “City Limitations” – The Suicide Machines have been making quite the noise these days. Earlier this year, they released their first album in 12 years and the Detroit punk band is back and damn near better than ever. This song is loaded with surprises. After a classic Suicide Machines introduction, listeners are hit with a little saxophone solo to get the feet moving before given yet another surprise. Jason Navarro bursts into the first verse with a voice like no other, but he is not alone. Joined by John Bunkley of Gangster Fun, this collaboration delivers a little bit of everything. With a catchy chorus, heavy hitting riffs, raw and real lyrics, and those signature Suicide Machines breakdowns, “City Limitations” is one of the best tracks to come off this compilation.

The Skints: “Restless” – London reggae band, The Skints, provide listeners with a newer version of their 2019 song “Restless.” While still maintaining that fresh contemporary reggae sound, this heavy dub mix offers a bit more for listeners as we explore another side of the band. Lyrically, this song is more relevant now than ever before. “Been thinking about what happens to those who served us wrong, the officer who chose to rob a mother of her son. And a tower stands in ashes, no one’s held accountable. Justice is something that is not universal.” The Skints, in my opinion, deliver the most unique track on the comp. 

Big D and the Kids Table: “Try Out Your Voice 2020” – Listeners hear chants from this summer’s protests in Seattle, “Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see no riot here,” before a refreshing version of “Try Out Your Voice” breaks through. Originally off the 2007 record, Strictly Rude, this timeless anthem by Big D and The Kids Table is the perfect track to end the compilation. This Boston ska-punk band consistently delivers fun, passionate tunes that listeners can relate to on all levels. During “Try Out Your Voice 2020,” singer Dave McWane encourages all to, “Try out our voice, now use it, now use it! We are the people. 2020, get your friends and family and GO VOTE!”

Bree, here! I was super excited when I saw the bands that were included on this compilation. I spent a lot of time in DC before Covid and loved the ska scene that it shares with Virginia. There was a nice representation of the East Coast on the album – including a little bit of Punksylvania.

Bite Me Bambi: “Carried Away” – Hailing from Orange County, the seven members blend 3rd wave ska with some 2 tone to create their own flavor of music. When I first heard of this band a bit ago, I was immediately reminded of late 90’s Save Ferris. This makes sense since OGs, T-Bone Willy and Brian Mashburn, are in the band. Their song on the album illustrates the current state of the world. The lyrics are as somber as our reality, but it at least has horns. In my opinion, the bridge is one of the best on the entire album. 

Doped Up Dollies: “Racist Friend” – You get a chance to catch your breath in this one with its slower tempo that allows you to focus on the heavy lyrics delivered by this 12 piece out of Boston. The harmonies here are as lovely as the three ladies, Sirae Richardson, Brianne McWane, and Erin Mackenzie, delivering them. I was most excited to write about this song, because it has literally been my life over the past six months. Residing in a small, country town definitely has its perks, but it also comes with narrow minded thinking. I’ve been making my social circle smaller and smaller by the day by removing people whose values do not match my own. 

Kill Lincoln: “David Duke is Running For President” – I’ve been following this DC ska band since right before Covid when I first heard that they had their own hype man, Drew Skibitsky. I have to admit that the song they included on this comp was not the poppier version of ska that I was used to hearing from them. This one almost had a SoCal punk vibe to it and blasts you with horns and energy the entire time. Have you ever heard of David Duke?? A radical right wing politician who was a Grandmaster of the KKK – he’s not exactly the best person or someone that you want running the country. I wish that the imagery being painted wasn’t what was actually going on currently. 

Half Past Two: “Shine” – Alright, cue the waterworks. This is probably the most soul touching and spirit lifting song on the LP. Another fabulous ska band to call Orange County home, lead vocalist, Tara Hahn, wrote this song for her daughter who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA, to create awareness. The original version is much slower than the faster, brassier ditty that we get on the comp. We all have issues in our lives, but oftentimes they pale in comparison to what others are facing. This is especially true when we become parents and have to watch our kiddos experience pain and hardship that we aren’t able to take from them. 

Catbite: “Asinine Aesthetic” – Punksylvania in the house being represented perfectly by some Philly ska. The four cool cats that make up this band each have their own eclectic taste and they bring that uniqueness into their music. They brought that same energy when creating the song for this comp, which is their first to be released since their debut album. Its a solid little break from the heavy brass tunes in many of the other songs. I obviously really enjoyed the keys and had the chorus in my head for days. 

Left Alone: “Darkness” – Hands down this was my favorite on the entire album cos again…. ORGANS. On top of making incredible music, I love Left Alone because of their DIY spirit. Lead vocalist, Elvis Cortez, started Smelvis Records strictly to release his band’s albums before moving the California quartet to Hellcat. We all have incidents and situations from our pasts that stay with and define us. No matter where we are on our path, we will always carry this darkness and it will challenge our sobriety, mental health, and overall outlook on life if we allow it. Typically it pops up when its least convenient and when we are at our weakest. Please don’t allow it to take over and reach out when it gets to be too much. 

We Are the Union: “Ordinary Life” – I once heard Detroit’s WATU described as music for people with ADHD and that made my heart happy. It also may explain why I love this band so much. The guitar riffs during the chorus made me dance while cleaning my house and then the horns kicked in sending me into overdrive. I have a spiritual connection with the lyrics as well. “She could never just shut up and color between the lines.” That pretty much sums up my entire existence. Sometimes life would be easier if I could, but where’s the fun in that. 

We have nothing but fabulous things to say about this album and we haven’t run into a single person with a negative review. Everything about this rips – the bands, the songs, the message, the positivity, and the organizations that it benefits. This album has already raised over $55,000, so head to Bandcamp to buy your digital copy and help that figure grow. 

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