#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.


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

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#ThrowbackThursday: blink-182 – ‘What’s My Age Again?’

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I can’t believe it’s been 20 years already, since blink-182 first released their massive hit single, ‘What’s My Age Again?’ from their hugely successful album, Enema of the State.

Without a doubt, the trio have firmly embedded this as a punk rock classic that is sure to stay a firm fan favourite for years to come.

2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the single and album and although Tom DeLonge is currently not a member of the band, the members still publicly show support for each other’s projects and are celebrating the release with a tour and the addition of singer, Matt Skiba.

Not only are the lyrics witty but the music video is possibly one of the most hilarious and iconic ones of its time. I don’t think many people can have missed this…mainly due to the band’s hilarious nakedness running down the street, but in case you have somehow managed not to see it, check it out below!

What are your thoughts of this blink-182 track, 20 years after its release? 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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‘What’s My Age Again’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/whats-my-age-again/1440839912?i=1440840493


#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


#WildCardWednesday: Yelawolf – ‘American You’


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Yelawolf is an American hip hop/rap rock artist from Alabama, who is signed to Eminem‘s Shady Records.

He has also previously teamed up with Blink-182‘s drummer, Travis Barker, to release a joint album, called Psycho White.

In 2015, Yelawolf released his second album, Love Story, and this single is taken from that album. It was the third single to be taken from the album and I recently discovered it whilst playing on GHTV (Guitar Hero Live TV). I like it’s sort of chilled-out hip hop vibe with rock elements blended in. I’ll definitely be keeping and eye out for future releases and checking out his releases to date.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘American You’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/american-you/id976858638?i=976858648


#Two4Tunesday: Angels & Airwaves – ‘Bullets In The Wind’ and Years & Years – ‘King’

My word, we’ve got two fantastic songs for you this week – one from my all-time favourite band, Angels & Airwaves and the other from newcomers, Years & Years, with their recent, chart-topping track.

Angels & Airwaves

First up, Angels & Airwaves! Since they’re my favourite band, I’m surprised I’ve gone this long without featuring them!

What’s not to love about this band?! I love Blink-182, but I love this band more! Tom DeLonge captured my attention, back in 2006, when he launched this band with a heart-felt spoken trailer and accompanying World War II/Space imagery alongside their euphoric songs. I have been following them since their inception and seen them every time they’ve toured the UK. This particular song, taken from their most recent release, The Dream Walker, sees the band move into a new sound and away from their previously enchanted sounds, into a more indie vibe, but yet they’re still epic!

Tell us what you think of this particular track and please check out the rest of their releases.

Angels & Airwaves – ‘Bullets In The Wind’


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To me, it seems that these guys have appeared out of nowhere! I remember seeing them as a featured artist on iTunes and ever since then, they topped the charts with this track! Quite a calm, electronica/indie vibe with this particular song and the singer Olly Alexander’s (also known for his acting in programmes such as Skins) vocals make it interesting and unique. What do you think of it? Personally, I’m intrigued to hear what their future releases will hold.

Years & Years – ‘King’


Happy Two4Tunesday to one and all! Which 2 songs are you loving to share this week?

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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