Tuesday, 18 August 2015

In The Pit

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is live ska/punk albums.

Here, in no particular order, are my top five:

5. Mad Caddies - Live From Toronto: Songs in the Key of Eh

Not only is it a brilliant name for an album, Songs in the Key of Eh showcases the Mad Caddies' mad mix of swing, ska and sea shanties. There's no filler in this 2004 performance, released by Fat Wreck Chords - the independent punk label founded by NOFX frontman Fat Mike. The Californian seven-piece tear their way through punk, polka and pirate music. Why are the Caddies so good? Because they arrrrr.

4. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Live from the Middle East

Talking of great names for albums, Live from the Middle East was actually recorded at the Middle East club in Boston - home of the Bosstones, and therefore of skacore. It was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones who first fused Madness-style ska with the hardcore genre, and this 1998 live album plays out like a greatest-hits-so-far. The setlist is perfect, the energy extraordinary and Dicky Barrett sounds like a giant cigarette that's formed a ska band.

3. Reel Big Fish - Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album

Another fantastic name, Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album sees Reel Big Fish kick everyone's asses. Recorded in 2006, this double-album is really the ultimate expression of the ska/punk stalwarts' lunacy. The music is as tight and energetic as we've come to expect from these gatekeepers of third-wave ska, who really took the Bosstones' plaid sound and ran with it like headless chickens. It's also hilarious from start to finish - more schtick than you can shake a stick at!

2. Incontrolable - Ska-P

Like Reel Big Fish, Ska-P are a band with a zany image but incredibly skilful arrangements. But on top of that, the Spanish ska/punkers have a political edge, which surfaces throughout this relentlessly impressive live album. Recorded across Europe in 2004, Incontrolable exhibits the band's powerful brass-driven hard rock, their wonderful sense of humour and their anti-establishment social stance. Plus there's a cat driving a bus on the cover - what's not to love?

1. Sublime - Stand By Your Van

Another band crucial in popularising third-wave ska, Sublime's raw energy and musical ingenuity are sublimely represented on Stand By Your Van - a retrospective live album recorded between 1994 and 1996, when Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose. It may lack the ingenious production and sampling displayed on their albums, but for Sublime, a bass, guitar and drums are All You Need. Oh, and a dog.