Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Ska and a 4th Wave Vision
First wave ska was the classic one: It was a strange mix of calypso, reggae, and soul that resonated with musicians and listeners. It wasn’t 100% original, but everything in music is an extension, an addendum, an addition upon an already existent genre. There’s a certain threshold of uniqueness that sparks a wave of interest and level of originality that inspires enough musicians to build off of that type of music that it sort of becomes original, at least definition-wise. When one musician or group of musicians is inspired by another musician or group of musicians to the point of creating music, that in and of itself, is, at least definition wise, original.
2-Tone ska expanded on this sound; it was no longer a mix of calypso, reggae, and soul that would define the sound. Now, it was ska, and would later be first wave ska. 2-Tone ska was a fusion of first wave ska and the initial explosion of punk rock in ’76 and ’77. While this was an addendum genre, it definitely had a sound that did not speak to the same group of listeners; 2-Tone seemed to be a mild commercialization of the ska sound. There still existed much integrity, however; the Specials, the Selecter, Gangster Fun, and the like sung about real things, jammed out upbeat guitar chords with parallel horn lines being blasted out in 4:4 synchronized rhythm. Again, it was captivating enough to a wave of musicians that it was original. Influences are not a capitulation of uniqueness; an artist is influenced by his predecessors that he holds dear, in all cases sans the one of an artist who doubles as an insulated hermit.
Third wave was the movement sparked in the early 90s with the greatest wave of publicity and saturation of any of the previous movements. Giant following and fanboy fandom followed with such bands as Catch 22, Mustard Plug, the Toasters, Skankin’ Pickle, Reel Big Fish, Less than Jake, and all of their contemporaries. Since this third wave first began its tide in 1991, almost every ska band has surfed along the third wave, from all fifty of the states in America to Canada to Europe to the whole rest of the world. The popular tide where commercial existence stuck its nose in eventually receded, and the third wave somehow still persisted, almost totally unchanged.
Now, what’s the future, now that even underground popular interest is waning for the third wave? The answer: A new type of fusion genre, one that incorporates not only ska, but other genres too. Such sounds have already been touched on, but not in any kind of a movement-like way; Luvdump incorporates ska and peace punk, Ghetto Blaster fuses ska, hip-hop, and punk rock, Stuck Lucky is a mishmash of thrash, punk, and ska, Babylon Party Machine mixes techno and ska, Matt Wixson uses both traditional folk and ska music together, and there are others too (rumor has it that there’s a powerviolence-ska fusion in the works in Detroit). This future is already being carried forth in small doses; in fact, Choking Victim, to a limited extent, was the first of this fusion-genre prototype, and more only followed. Riotska Records, though limited in the different styles it puts out, is one label that is following this trend-to-be. Asian Man, a more diverse and different label, too, follows this trend (though, to be fair, label owner Mike Park also helped form third wave in the 1990s). There are large waves of bands that are following this influenced-by-third-wave movement. While small, the indication that these bands are popular or getting popular is not to be doubted. Alkaline Trio, Against Me!, Bubblegum Octopus, The Ergs!, the Flatliners, and so on are all relatively popular groups who are undoubtedly influenced the third wave of ska, and move along with this “Fourth Wave” trend that is slowly picking up. Pick up an instrument and jam out some fucking ska music, fourth wave style, before the masses catch wind of the wave, and it, too, is copped and sold out. Your time runs lower by the minute.