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Ska Punk

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Primary Stylistic Influences:
Secondary Stylistic Influences:

After Grunge went out of style and Britpop failed to gain a foothold in America, this subgenre of Alternative Rock -also known as Third Wave ska - briefly came to the fore at the end of The '90s. Owing as much to Hair Metal or Classic Rock as it did to 2 Tone or Reggae, ska punk essentially fused nineties Pop Punk with semi-metal guitars and then added horns, syncopated rhythms and some of the most cheerfully dissonant lyrics you're likely to find in pop music.

That's the musical style in a nutshell. To elaborate on the history of the genre, we'd have to go back to New York City in the early 1980s, where the first American ska scene began to develop. Much of the credit for the early development of American ska can be attributed to Robert "Bucket" Hingley, a British expatriate who enjoyed 2 Tone ska, founded his own band (The Toasters) and created the Moon Ska Records label, which recorded almost every noteworthy East Coast group at some point. Around the same time, a group of school friends from Massachusetts started The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, whose fusion of ska and Hardcore Punk was influential in the development of the ska-core style.

By the late 1980s, the most successful American ska scene was developing in California, where short-lived but hugely influential groups like Operation Ivy combined hardcore and ska influences to create their own brand of ska-core. A west coast alternative to Moon Ska appeared in the form of the Asian Man Records label, formed by Skankin' Pickle saxophonist Mike Park. After the huge success of Grunge and Punk Rock in the early to mid-nineties, ska was well placed to enter the mainstream. Early successes to come out of the California scene included reggae fusion masters Sublime, Op Ivy offshoots Rancid, whose album ... And Out Come the Wolves was the first American ska record to be certified Gold and some punk bands, like NOFX and The Offspring, who also recorded some ska-influenced songs.

In 1995, ska punk was finally brought to mainstream attention with the release of No Doubt's multi-platinum Tragic Kingdom album, which created a big demand for similar-sounding groups. 1996 and 1997 would be the peak years for the Third Wave revival. Reel Big Fish, Sublime and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones all had hit singles on the Modern Rock charts, while groups like Less Than Jake and Mustard Plug skanked it up in Florida and the mid-west respectively and music by Save Ferris or the Toasters featured in films or TV. And while the mainstream focused on the aforementioned bands, the underground scene of the late 90's and early 2000’s saw a minor subgenre of ska punk form, dubbed "Crack Rock Steady". The subgenre was pioneered by bands like Choking Victim (the Trope Namer), Morning Glory, No Ca$h, and Leftöver Crack, which fused ska, crust punk and Death Metal into one package. For a while, ska punk was pretty popular.

However, ska's fifteen minutes of fame in America were soon up. Unlike Britpop, which was clearly finished off by the third Oasis album, it's hard to place a definite Genre-Killer for ska punk. A lot of bands split up, while others (such as No Doubt, Less Than Jake and the Aquabats) changed their sound a bit. Even so, there were plenty of bands that stuck to their ska guns, such as Reel Big Fish or the Bosstones, who continue to play to audiences who remain as rabid as ever, and every so often bands - such as Chase Long Beach and Streetlight Manifesto - come along who look like they may revive ska for a fourth wave.

Also of note is that ska-punk caught on outside the U.S., more so than it did outside Jamaica or the U.K. during the first or second wave; while it didn't get as popular anywhere else as it did in the U.S., there was no backlash against it, either. In parts of South America, the third wave of ska never really ended.

Bands include:


  • Genre-Busting: It's not uncommon for bands to have other musical influences besides the obvious Ska and Punk Rock ones- for example, Heavy Metal in the case of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish, or Reggae and HipHop in the case of Sublime. Rancid experimented with Pop Punk, Hardcore Punk, Rockabilly, Reggae, Latin Music and Blues at various times, as well...
  • Jerk Jock: Fans of the genre have generally grown to be stereotyped as this, primarily due to the party-friendly nature of the music and the frequent inclusions of ska-punk songs on nineties fratboy comedy movie soundtracks. Sublime, Reel Big Fish, and 311 in particular have gained a reputation for fratboy douchebag fans; while this isn't entirely true, the reaction at the average college bar when "Santeria" or "Beautiful Disaster" comes up on the jukebox proves that it isn't untrue, either.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A complete set of examples would probably fill a page on their own; this trope was practically a trademark of the genre. In short: most Ska Punk songs have bouncy, upbeat music and superficially sound extremely happy, but if you actually pay attention to the lyrics they are some of the most cynical, sarcastic, snide and/or self-deprecating songs ever written.
    • Crack Rock Steady takes this up to eleven by writing songs about drug use, anarchism (more typically in the traditional sense, not the Anarchy Is Chaos way - although there may be some overlap), and police brutality, among other "darker" subjects. The song that named the subgenre is a standard-sounding rocker, but the lyrics blatantly describe the singer's hatred for police officers, to put it lightly.
  • No-Hit Wonder: Many of the better known groups managed to be successful without getting many actual hit songs. They were either this or a...
  • One-Hit Wonder: Reel Big Fish and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones have only really had one charting hit each: "Sell Out" and "The Impression That I Get," respectively. However, both bands have major cult followings.
    • Reel Big Fish even had a song about it ("One Hit Wonderful").
  • Self-Deprecation: It's hard to find a ska band without a bit of this going on (particularly the ones who have been in it since ska's nineties heyday).
  • Trope Codifier: The Toasters for American ska music in general, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones for ska-core and Choking Victim for Crack Rock Steady.