#Review: Pick It Up – Ska in the 90s

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Following the success of his previous feature documentary (Here’s to Life: The Story of the Refreshments), director, Taylor Morden – an on-and-off trumpet player in ska bands for over 20 years – has returned to the world of ska to help bring the story of 90s ska to the masses. With a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the documentary took full flight and could not have been better produced, more thorough or more interesting to watch. Here’s what we had to say about it…

Pick It Up! Cover

From the very start, there are some wonderful aspects to this film, that instantly jump out at the viewer. Firstly, there is the fantastic animation weaving its way seemlessly throughout the documentary – some of it flows over footage of the various interviewees and other sections are entirely animated – but it all works so well! Secondly, is the truly amazing cast of stars from the genre, talking about their experiences with anecdotes and opinions that  they lived through during the ska scene in the 90s. Lastly, is the fact that the film is entirely narrated by Tim Armstrong (best known as the singer/guitarist for the punk rock band Rancid, and before that, the ska band, Operation Ivy – considered instrumental for the genre, despite only ever releasing one album).

But, what is ska?
Well, a lot of the cast of the film, brilliantly sum it up as “fast reggae with horns”.

Near the beginning of the film, we’re treated to a journey through the origins of ska, back in the 1950s, with a beautifully descriptive piece about what nights of ska music would have been like in its native Jamaica and then how it made its way over to the UK, settling in places like Brixton, Notting Hill and Coventry and on from there. This whole segment is accompanied by that wonderful animation, to bring it to life. It’s also interesting to know that reggae music actually wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for ska music being slowed down, and that also two-tone and ska punk both found their origins in ska.

This is a truly engaging film that is easy yet interesting to watch. It’s split into sections, looking at specific aspects of the genre like “skanking” (the very limb-orientated dance); the horn section (in particular, how in magazine photos they would often hold their horns to show it’s a ska band); and the DIY ethic of the genre – from posters to merchandise, bands would do pretty much everything themselves, such as designing logos, posters for shows and more, as cheaply as possible.

It’s fascinating that many consider 90s ska to have been brought to the forefront of the mainstream market due to No Doubt signing to a major label (Interscope Records) and releasing their hit album, Tragic Kingdom – which interestingly wasn’t very ska in style but due to their roots in the genre, helped highlight it to the masses.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough – whether you’re into ska or not, if you’re interested in music, this is a film you can learn a lot from.

We also learn that others had a big impact on the genre – Goldfinger were entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for playing 385 gigs in a single year; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ made an appearance in the cult movie, Clueless; and the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games introduced ska to a new generation too.

The film looks further into the “ska scene” and how instrumental live shows were, not only for bands and their friendships but the fans and creating shared experiences too. Additionally, despite touring extensively, money for ska bands was often in short supply due to the number of members in a band, but often small indie labels would release compilation CDs to showcase some of their band’s best work, to generate further interest in them. A lot of these smaller indie labels would operate as mail order services.

One of the most postive and interesting things about ska is the unity within the genre – black and white people would work in bands together, in harmony, so if anyone demonstrated any racism at shows, bands wouldn’t stand for it, however fights would frequently break out at shows as a result. This is one of the main reasons that the black and white checkers became a thing of ska. Also, there are a fair few women in genre and they address how these women would often have to hold their own with their strong characters and no-nonsense attitudes.

Unfortunately, by the turn of the millennium, as major labels had almost made ska a parody of itself, the ska bubble burst and the scene had become saturated with similar bands. As a result, people started to turn their backs to it and bands themselves started adapting to new sounds and dropping their horn sections.

There will always be a subculture for ska – just like with punk rock – but it’s not as mainstream as it was in the 90s. However, there is a bit of nostalgia resurge for ska at the moment (as well as 90s music in general), so whilst bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish are making new music ,they have a lot of fans reliving their youths by coming to shows. That said, across Mexico, Japan and Europe there is still a lot of love for ska and there’s hope for a ska revival in the near future, as the world could use some positivity right now.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough – whilst I like ska, it’s not a genre I know tons about but whether you’re into it or not, if you’re interested in music, this is a film you can learn a lot from, not only about the genre and it’s origins but from first-hand accounts of the scene during the 1990s, in an engaging and humourous way. Plus, you actually find yourself absorbed in the music itself – in fact I’ve had the playlist from the movie (below) on repeat ever since!

Rating
5


‘Pick It Up! – Ska in the 90s’ is out now and can be ordered/downloaded from the official website – https://www.skamovie.com/shop-1


Listen to the ‘Pick It Up! – Ska in the 90s’ official playlist on Spotify


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! Have you seen this SKAcumentary yet? What did you think of it? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#Review: Millencolin – SOS 🚀🆘

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Millencolin are a punk rock band from Sweden, consisting of all four original members, Nikola Sarcevic (vocals & bass), Mathias Färm (lead guitar), Erik Ohlsson (rhythm guitar) and Fredrik Larzon (drums). To date, the band have had eight studio albums and played all around the world, including at America’s prestigious Warped Tour. Now, 2019 marks the release of SOS, the band’s ninth studio album since their 1992 inception, some 27 years later! Here’s what we have to say about the record…

Millencolin - SOS.jpg

SOS kicks straight in with the intense, apocalyptic-sounding title track, gripping you with its chugging guitars and haunting vocal chants, making it instantly clear that this is very much a punk rock album and not a commercialising into the pop punk realm.

That said, there is something very commercial about the album’s glistening production; vastly different from that of some of the band’s earlier records.

Additionally, there’s actually something very traditional about this album, like Millencolin have followed the recipe for the perfect skate rock record – ‘For Yesterday’ and ‘Nothing’ are perfect examples of this and particularly reminiscent of early Goldfinger or Alkaline Trio. However, in saying this, it also demonstrates that the band have not quite made any moves to vary their sound or try to push the boundaries of the genre, though there are bound to be countless fans that will appreciate this.

‘Sour Days’ and ‘Reach You’ particularly stand out, and although some of the most “radio friendly” tracks on the record due to their big choruses, they’re possibly the most vocally and instrumentally interesting with great harmonies and pristine changes in tempo across both.

It’s definitely a well-produced record with some strong choruses and impeccable instrumentation.

‘Yanny & Laurel’ is a good, story-telling song and interestingly named after the 2018 debate about whether a sound clip was saying the word ‘yanny’ or ‘laurel’ and is cleverly reflected with an auto-tuned chorus around the two words.

Sadly, there are some songs that just lack sincerity and would sit better on blink-182 or Green Day album (though don’t get me wrong I love both those bands), like ‘Do You Want War’ and ‘Caveman’s Land’. Both tracks have strong instrumentals but lyrically border on cringe-worthy.

‘Carry On’ really brings the album home with a strong, nostalgic-feeling chorus, which sounds almost like an audible farewell. The drums at the start, instantly draw you in and by the end of the track, it’s descended into just the right amount of chaos that you’re both satisfied and left wanting more.

Overall, SOS is a politically charged public service announcement, and takes a rather negative take on the current state of the world, even referencing the decline in society and impending end of the world as we know it. But then isn’t that what all punk rock is about?

It’s definitely a well-produced record with some strong choruses and impeccable instrumentation, however there are certainly the odd lyrical improvements and risk-taking elements that could be adopted by the band, going forward. I guess it could just be put down to, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Rating
3.5


‘SOS’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/sos/1441157359


SOS on Spotify

SOS (Official Video)

Nothing (Audio Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of Millencolin’s latest album, SOS? Are you a fan? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#MuzikSpeaks: An Interview with Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish

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Reel Big Fish are undoubtedly one of the world’s biggest ska punk bands (as if you didn’t already know!) and December 2018 saw the band release their ninth studio album (and first new album in 6 years), Life Sucks…Let’s Dance! (click the link to read our review).

I was lucky enough and truly honoured that Aaron Barrett took some time out of the band’s busy tour schedule to talk to me!


Hey Aaron, so you‘ve been gearing up to release your ninth studio album, ‘Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!’ and the buzz around it seems be great but how do you feel prior to a new release? Is it nerve-wracking or exciting?
Aaron Barrett: There is definitely a lot of excitement this time around because I think for the first time in my life I am totally confident in the record. I know it’s really good and the songs are awesome and I can’t wait for people to hear it! In the past I really always was insecure about the albums and thought people would hate the new stuff and I just dreaded everything about putting out a new one.

Well nothing to fear with this record…it’s great! So where did the idea for the title come from and what’s the meaning behind it?
Aaron Barrett: That was just one of the songs I wrote for the album and I guess it’s just kind of how I’m feeling these days. Just make the best of whatever situation you’re in, that’s about all you can do sometimes.

What’s the track you’re most excited for people to hear?
Aaron Barrett: All of them! There are so many great songs on this record! I think my favorites are ‘Life Sucks; Let’s Dance’, ‘In Love Again’ and ‘I’d Rather Get It Wrong’.

All great tracks! What’s your usual process for writing/recording and where do you take inspirations from?
Aaron Barrett: I’ve never been a “Sit down and write a song/album” kind of guy. I pretty much just wait for song ideas to pop into my head. I might be at a restaurant, in the shower, at the beach, I never know where or when an idea will come. But when it does, I don’t record anything, I don’t write anything down, I just try to remember and I figure that if it’s good enough for me to remember for a few years, then it’s time to get out the guitar and figure out how it goes and show it to the rest of the guys. So this new record is just the last 5 years of little musical ideas piling up in my brain! Haha.

I love that – so organic and honest! Haha! So what future plans have you got? Any big tours? Will you be winging your way over to the UK any time soon?
Aaron Barrett: Well with the release of a new record, that means even more touring than we usually do! Gotta go everywhere and spread the word about the new music. We will definitely be in the UK this summer and who knows, maybe the fall too!

If you could have anyone feature on a track, who would it be and why?
Aaron Barrett: I’d love to have CC Deville from Poison do a guitar solo on a song! Or maybe do a duet with Dolly Parton? That would be cool!

Both of those would be amazing! What music have you been listening to most recently?
Aaron Barrett: I’ve been listening to nothing but 80’s country music for the last couple weeks on the tour bus, the rest of the band hates me now! Haha!

Haha! Reel Big Fish goes Country for the next album?! Maybe not! If you had to cover a recent chart song, which song would it be and why?
Aaron Barrett: I honestly couldn’t name one hit song that’s been out in the last few years, I’m completely out of touch with music today…thank goodness! Haha.

Haha, fair enough! Where are some of your favourite cities to perform at?
Aaron Barrett: I always love to do shows in Hawaii because…well I get paid to go to Hawaii!! And of course I always love to tour the UK!

Who wouldn’t love to play in Hawaii! What a lucky guy you are. What makes a show particularly amazing for you?
Aaron Barrett: I think what makes a show great for me is if the audience is singing along and dancing and going crazy, that’s the most important thing for me. I do everything I can to keep people moving and excited and having a good time. And if anybody laughs at my dumb jokes, that’s a bonus too!

I bet they do; you’re a funny and charismatic guy! So, has anything really scary ever happened to you on tour? If so, what?
Aaron Barrett: We had a tour bus that burned down one time, that was pretty scary. Everybody was asleep in their bunks on the bus and the bus driver came running in waking everybody up telling all to get out. Some of the guys didn’t even grab their shoes or wallets and we pretty much all lost our cell phones. But all of our music gear was ok and we all survived. But that was crazy…and scary.

Sounds horrendous…at least you were all alright! Do you have any pre-show or post-show rituals?
Aaron Barrett: I think the only pre-show ritual we have is drinking a few beers and changing into our stinky show clothes. Nobody does any yoga or punches themselves in the balls 30 times before they hit the stage or anything, haha!

Haha, now there’s an image! Have any of you got any weird habits?
Aaron Barrett: Yea, we all listen to SKA music!

Good one! Do you have any other passions outside of music?
Aaron Barrett: I’m obsessed with my dog Walter! Check him out on Instagram: @thewonderfulworldofwalter

*Looks on Instagram* ADORABLE! What really grinds your gears?
Aaron Barrett: When people ask me stupid questions…

Awkward…sorry, haha! What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to any of you, in life?
Aaron Barrett: I started a Ska band!

Embarrassing…or super cool?! What’s the best film you’ve seen lately?
Aaron Barrett: Edward Penis-hands.

Haha…enough said! If, in say 10 years time, a film was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Aaron Barrett: Kermit the Frog.

The Muppets as Reel Big Fish…love it! If you were a chocolate bar, which one would you be and why?
Aaron Barrett: I like sour candy, can I be one of those?

Course you can! Lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Aaron Barrett: “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Massive thanks to Aaron for taking the time to interview with me and to Mike Cubillos from Earshot Media for organising the interview.

📸Photo Credit: Jodi Cunningham


Reel Big Fish‘s releases are all available:


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#Review: Reel Big Fish – Life Sucks…Let’s Dance! 💃🏽


   

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Reel Big Fish are a ska punk band from Orange County, California. They have had many members over the years, with Aaron Barrett (lead vocals, synths/keyboards and guitars) being the only member left from the original lineup. However the sextet also comprises of John Christianson (trumpet & backing vocals), Derek Gibbs (bass guitar & backing vocals), Matt Appleton (saxophone & backing vocals), Lucky LaPenta (trombone & backing vocals) and Edward Larsen (drums). Since their debut album in 1995, the band have been through a major label (Jive) and come out the other side, to establish their own independent label, with a heap of album releases in between. Now, the end of 2018 marks the release of the band’s 9th album, Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! Here’s what we have to say about it…

Reel Big Fish - Life Sucks...Let's Dance.jpg

There are some albums that you can just stick on and relax to, lie in bed and get lost in, or have an easy Sunday morning with. Not this one! Reel Big Fish have crafted another hugely successful record that just begs to be skanked out to!

Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! sets a much happier tone than their last release, Candy Coated Fury (2012), and there is even a sense of a renewed purpose to the band, evident across the record. The song subjects are generally quite tongue-in-cheek, ranging from the bizarre and witty (‘Bob Marley’s Toe’) to the sarcastic and even outright cheeky (‘Bleached Thang, Baby’). One thing is for certain; their outlook on life seems pretty damn chirpy and while listening, all you want to do is dance along from start to finish!

Good vibes run throughout the album and the songwriting, brilliantly diverse instrumentals and top-notch production result in a record that you can’t help but fall in love with.

Barrett states, “Recording the album with this line up was really fun, we all get along really well these days and everybody was excited to make a new record. Everybody had lots of great ideas and really got creative with everything and I really think it shows.” And he’s right; it does! The excitement they felt about recording this album, clearly emanates through to the listener.

Their outlook on life seems pretty damn chirpy and when listening, all you want to do is dance along from start to finish!

It’s so damn hard to narrow it down but some of the best tracks on the record are, ‘Pissed Off’ for its humour and incredible overlapping vocals at the end, ‘Tongue Tied And Tipsy Too’ with its frantic, grungy and very punk guitar riffs, making it a massive moshable anthem and ‘Bleached Thang, Baby’ which is a sassy track with sexy guitar licks throughout – it’s very skankable, chaotic and just makes you want to let loose. The guitar riff at the end is sensational too!

That’s not to say there aren’t other hugely loveable tracks too, the title track, ‘Life Sucks… Let’s Dance’ is a big-hitter; ‘You Can’t Have All Of Me’ has some stunning vocal harmonies at the end, ‘In Love Again’ contains country-like vocals and guitar slides; ‘Another Beer Song’ is a humorous account of getting drunk to get over someone; ‘Ska Show’ is just a damn good song and ‘Walter’s Highlife’ is an uplifting instrumental track that brings the album to a close nicely.

When you hear their first record (released back in 1995) you can hear just how much this band have evolved, to become the well-loved, polished party anthem machine they are today! Regardless of whether you are a long-term RBF fan or new to the genre, there’s no way you will be able to stop yourself dancing manically to this record and easily picking up the lyrics to sing along with! 23 years and 9 albums later, this band are still going strong and showing no signs of stopping…bring on album 10!!!

Rating
4


‘Life Sucks…Let’s Dance!’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/life-sucks-lets-dance/1442723388


Life Sucks…Let’s Dance! on Spotify

You Can’t Have All Of Me (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of Reel Big Fish’s latest album? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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#ThrowbackThursday: Goldfinger – ‘Get Up’


   

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I can’t believe it’s already been a decade since Goldfinger released their sixth album, Hello Destiny… (SideOneDummy Records, 2008) but it has.

The first single to be taken from the album was in fact ‘One More Time’, which although a great track, I couldn’t resist sharing ‘Get Up’ in all of its pop punk/ska punk glory! In fact, on iTunes, it is actually the most popular track on the record!

It actually wasn’t released as a single, so no music video exists but it’s chock full of political messages that really pack a punch! It’s the sort of song you can really visualise a politically-driven video for though; the kind that would feature news clips, etc.!

Great song, great message, incredible band!

What are your thoughts of this 2008 pop punk/ska punk belter? Are you still a fan of the track, 10 years on? Do you have a #ThrowbackThursday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘Get Up’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/get-up/993329380?i=993329394


#ThrowbackThursday: Less Than Jake – ‘The Rest Of My Life’


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American ska-punk band, Less Than Jake, released their song ‘The Rest of My Life’ around 10 years ago now.

I love this song as it came out during my late teen years and it reminds me of a lot of those times. The song is very different to a lot of their previous releases as it takes on a more mature and mellower sound to their usual up-beat, fast-paced, in-your-face ska punk vibes.

The song was taken from the band’s sixth studio album, In with the Out Crowd, and was actually co-written with Mark Hoppus from Blink-182.

What are your thoughts on this track? Does it evoke any memories for you? Have you never heard it before? Please share your thoughts or own #ThrowbackThursday tracks in a comment below or via our social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘The Rest Of My Life’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-rest-of-my-life/id153452833?i=153452985