Friday, September 24

The CDP's Top 50 3rd Wave Ska Albums (10-1).

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In the 7-year history of the CDP, I’ve done countless lists and countdowns. Some are driven by popular culture, some by personal preference, some by no tangible criteria whatsoever. One thing I try to never do, however, is create a list that doesn’t reflect my honest opinion about something, regardless of if that betrays whatever knowledgeable hipster-facade I’m attempting to create here. If I think that Excitebike is a better Nintendo game than The Legend Of Zelda, I’ll say it is with no fear of a Internet Tough Guy beatdown. I’m a man; I drive a Mercury Sable.

What I’m getting at is this. 3rd Wave Ska was, for most people, a moment in time that captured a lot of memories, positive nostalgia and a multitude of wide-eyed options for the future. It was the soundtrack to a lot of important times, and that attachment to music is always a more accurate connection and critique as to whether something is merely ‘Good’ or ‘Bad.’ A good song is the file tab in the Card Catalog of life (Dewey Decimal codes notwithstanding), and as long as it resonates personally, that’s all that matters. That’s what Art is. For example, if I touch a breast while ‘History Of A Boring Town’ is playing in the background, you’re never going to convince me that Hello Rockview is a shitty album, because I like breasts. Especially in 1998. That’s literally the best way I can describe what music means to me in a philosophical sense: Context is everything.

Context is everything.

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10. Slapstick - Slapstick (1997)

Possibly the most influential 3rd Wave act not named Operation Ivy, this career retrospective of the Chicago Ska-Punk outfit inspired hundreds of bands and is a staple of the genre.

Give Them A Listen!

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9. The Hippos – Heads Are Gonna Roll (1999)

The final proper release from The Hippos, this album should have been titled The Shape Of Ska To Come. More organ-driven than their previous effort, this is wall-to-wall solid songwriting and a band that seemed ready to transcend the genre. Alas, it wasn't to be.

Listen To A Song I Wish I Wrote!

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8. Mustard Plug – Evildoers Beware! (1997)

I credit Mustard Plug for the abdominal six-pack I had in high school (really, I did). Skanking for two straight hours in a sweltering concert hall is akin to about a billion crunches, which reminds me that I should probably market 'The Ska Workout' to pudgy 30-somethings.

Don't Let 'Em Take It All Away!

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7. The Impossibles - Anthology (1999)

From a personal standpoint, few albums were more influential to me than Anthology. However, from a 3rd Wave standpoint, it's not as high up as more deserving bands. The Impossibles were never too comfortable being labeled a Ska band, eventually abandoning the upstrokes altogether by the time Return dropped. That being said, the energy, hooks, nostalgia and lyricism of Gabe & Rory is about as good as any pretentious music I now keep in daily rotation.

Hi, We're The Impossibles From Austin, Texas!

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6. Less Than Jake - Pezcore (1995)

What is 'Ska-Punk?' Reel Big Fish are too Ska. Rancid is too Punk. Less Than Jake? Just right. Pezcore inspired a new genre with introspective lyrics, sing-along choruses, a high-energy live show and a following that keeps LTJ selling out huge venues to this day. Easily one of my favorite bands of all-time, and one of those albums that I can see myself listening to forever.

Give Them A Listen!

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5. Reel Big Fish – Turn The Radio Off (1996)

This was it for me. This was the album that blew my senses out the back of my head, introducing me to Ska in the funnest possible way. It's all here: the humor, the phenomenally-catchy songs, the cynicism, the Hawaiian shirts...RBF had it all.

Turn The Radio Off is known for being one of the most popular and influential Ska albums ever, and that's due mostly on the part of their opening track, 'Sell Out.' If you aren't a fan of 'Sell Out,' don't get the humor or think that the style is a bit out of your comfort zone, do yourself a favor and steer clear of the genre for the rest of your life. You're never going to appreciate it.

Listen To My Favorite 3rd Wave Song!

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4. The Suicide Machines - Destruction By Definition (1996)

No band has ever copied the Operation Ivy model to more precision. The energy. The huge, singalong hooks. The distorted upstrokes. The machine-gun drumming. The attitude and brethren. The album cover that, to Ska fans, is nearly as iconic as London Calling. To this day, Destruction By Definition still kicks ass, still makes me drive 30 miles over the speed limit, and still makes me long for a sweaty circle pit.

Give Them A Listen!

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3. Less Than Jake – Hello Rockview (1998)

Shortly after the release of Losing Streak, I became a huge Less Than Jake fan. I purchased as much of their extensive back catalog as possible, saw them in concert about three or four times, and waited patiently for their next release. One night, while attending a Ska show in Green Bay, the yet-to-be-released Hello Rockview was playing over the PA between bands, and I was more riveted with that than I was with the actual show. To me, it was perfect. The exact album that a band like LTJ should have made at that point in their career.

For years, I joked that Hello Rockview was my bible, and that any question about ones’ moral character or hardships would eventually be answered by one of the songs within. I still kind of mean that, as the classic themes of faded youth, broken friendships, maturity and uncertainty run rampant. For a kid that was nearly homeless at age 17, hearing a song like ‘Al’s War’ would simultaneously break my heart and make me stronger. Not to mention, the artwork, production and lyrics have never been better for Less Than Jake before or since.

Give Them A Listen!

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2. Operation Ivy - Energy (1991)

Number two? Blasphemy! Well, not really, but this might rub some people the wrong way. Operation Ivy is easily one of the most influential Punk bands (not just the smaller genre of Ska) ever, and Energy is one of those rite of passage discs that has a reason to sit in everyone’s cabinet or hard drive.

What Jesse Michaels, Tim Armstrong and company did so well was capture the raw urgency of punk, while writing songs that embodied the roots of Ska. Shining a spotlight on everything that was wrong with their city, and simultaneously telling everyone that it would be okay if they stuck together. Later efforts like Rancid and Common Rider fared well, but Operation Ivy was a moment in time, and they know that. I'm just glad it happened at all.

STOP THIS WAR!

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1. Catch 22 – Keasbey Nights (1998)

This was, for all intents and purposes, not supposed to happen.

These kids came out of essentially nowhere, releasing a debut album that spawned a 10th Anniversary re-release, a completely re-recorded Streetlight Manifesto version, and the almost-universal opinion that Keasbey Nights is the greatest 3rd Wave album ever. I mean, look at them all on the back cover. How old are they, 16? The matching suits; it all just screamed ‘This has been done before.’

What we didn’t know about Catch 22 was that not only was Thomas Kalnoky as original and prolific of a songwriter as we’ve ever seen in any scene, but that he surrounded himself with the best musicians the genre had to offer (especially drummer Chris Greer, who owns Keasbey Nights from start to finish). When Keasbey Nights began its upward momentum, however, the entire world took notice.

Nobody sounded like these guys. Nobody understood more influences. Nobody had more to say than Kalnoky. No band was tighter, cannonballing themselves into breakneck bursts at the most unexpected of times. These guys felt like your friends, too; the chatter at the end of ‘1234,1234’ is charming to say the least. The energy was through the roof, the talent incomparable. Keasbey Nights is a masterpiece of any genre, and as most of us know, this was the only proper Catch 22 album released with Kalnoky at the helm.

Streetlight Manifesto continues to redefine Ska at every turn, while Catch 22 still tours and releases albums (with limited activity since 2007), but Keasbey Nights can never be duplicated by either of them (even though they tried, literally, to do so). The intro to ‘Dear Sergio.’ The chorus of the title track. The bassline from ‘Walking Away.’ Hell, even the instrumental track kicks ass. Let’s also not forget the closing ‘1234,1234,’ which contains one of my favorite verses ever (which I’ll recite from memory):

Look around, little brother, can you tell me what you see?
You’re a big boy now, so take responsibility.

You never had it hard, and now it’s getting tough,

So you whine, whine, whine, and you say you’ve had enough.

You say I’m full of shit, that I’m a hypocrite.

I shouldn’t talk when I can’t take the advice that I give.
Well maybe you’re right, but open your eyes,

The main difference here, is that I try, try try.


Keasbey Nights tried and succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of the band, and perhaps beyond the wildest expectations of the Ska fans at the time. I went to a Ska show a few months ago to see some of the young bands who now view some of these albums as classics, and almost every group I saw played a cover of a Keasbey Nights song. That warmed my heart, because I knew that, while the 3rd Wave might be dead, timeless music is simply that.

Timeless.

Give Them A Listen!

Thanks for reading. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 23

The CDP's Top 50 3rd Wave Ska Albums (20-11).

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Welcome back. In 1999, I was in a punk cover band named Representative Watlet (don't ask). After a few months of practicing, we got down about four original songs that we played at shows the best we could, but the arguments were already starting to pile up, mainly concerning the direction of the sound. A couple of the guys were hooked on guitar-fueled punk like Face To Face and MxPx, while I was bound and determined to turn Rep. Watlet into a Ska band. In the end, we broke into two separate entities and both got our wishes.

My ex-girlfriend at the time had been a trumpet player in the High School band, and I remember her loaning the instrument out to me and my friends in the hopes that one of us would discover themselves to be a secret brass savant. This didn't happen, but it didn't stop us from incorporating it into nearly everything we wrote. I still have old cassette tapes of our practice sessions, and the horrific sound of my friend Ben blowing into that woefully out-of-tune trumpet is still equal parts embarrassing and heartwarming.

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20. The Toasters – Skaboom (1987)

The Toasters and the Bosstones essentially gave birth to the 3rd Wave, and Skaboom holds up surprisingly well, over two decades later.

Give Them A Listen!

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19. Rx Bandits – Halfway Between Here & There (1999)

Most Ska shows would be pretty cut and dry, but every now and again a band would come along that would make you pause and say, "Wow, these guys are really talented." Every time I saw the Rx Bandits perform, I had that same refreshing feeling that the genre I dug so much was still evolving. This, their first proper full-length, is a worthy introduction to a transcendent group.

Give Them A Listen!

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18. Voodoo Glow Skulls – The Band Geek Mafia (1998)

Everyone has their particular favorite VGS album, but this one is mine. To me, they sounded no angrier, no sharper, no more determined and no more amazing than on The Band Geek Mafia. Their brass section absolutely destroys, and frontman Frank Casillas runs the show like a Mexican bull in a china shop.

Give Them A Listen (Or DIE)!

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17. Aquabats – The Fury Of The Aquabats! (1997)

See the dude on (our) left of the Bat Commander? That's Travis Barker (aka Baron Von Tito), and The Aquabats was his last band before joining Blink 182. The Aquabats took the silly side of Ska and made it stupendous, fighing supervillians on stage and writing the most hook-drenched, tongue-in-cheek tunes I've ever heard. While the Aquabats don't get around as much as they used to, the Bat Commander has busied himself by creating the wonderful television show Yo Gabba Gabba!

(Put On Your Cape And) Give Them A Listen!

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16. Goldfinger – Hang-Ups (1997)

Goldfinger had experimented with Ska on their self-titled debut, but no more so than on Hang Ups, a journey through failed relationships, existentialism, nostalgia and love. For my money, I can't think of a better embassador to the 3rd Wave than 'Superman,' the picture-perfect opening track.

Give The Best 3rd Wave Song EVER A Listen!

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15. Link 80 – 17 Reasons… (1997)

Nick Traina, the frontman for Link 80, suffered from all sorts of psychological issues and drug problems, eventually taking his own life at the tragic age of nineteen. His legacy is 17 Reasons..., an angry, lightning-fast call to arms from a band (and a kid) that left us way too soon.

Give Them A Listen!

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14. Spring Heeled Jack – Songs From Suburbia (1998)

Solid. Great musicians. Masterfully-crafted pop hooks. A fantastic lead singer. Spring Heeled Jack was so good, that after they broke up, nearly every member of the band went on to join other well known Ska bands.

Give Them A Listen!

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13. Against All Authority – Destroy What Destroys You (1995)

One of the 'Punk vs. Ska' arguments of the day was that Ska was too silly. Too sunny and unwilling to adress the political and social issues typically covered by Punk. First of all, bullshit. Second of all, Against All Authority. Apart from being about as Punk as you can get, Destroy What Destroys You is a non-stop, fun as hell mission statement from guys that practice what they preach.

Give Them A Listen, Or Go To Hell, Pig!

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12. Reel Big Fish – Why Do They Rock So Hard? (1998)

Being a huge fan of Turn The Radio Off, I had waited impatiently for RBF's follow up. I remember listening to it from beginning-to-end on the night it came out, realizing that I had just listened to the most cynical, sarcastic, funny and downright awesome album since Jawbreaker's Dear You. This was the album that made Reel Big Fish one of the most popular 3rd Wave bands ever.

Give Them A Listen!

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11. Streetlight Manifesto – Everything Goes Numb (2003)

When Catch 22 broke up, frontman and perfectionist mastermind Thomas Kalnoky formed Streetlight Manifesto. The result, Everything Goes Numb, was as predicted: a masterful shot in the arm, proving that not only was Ska not dead in the 21st Century, but that it might be better than it ever was before.

For The Love Of God, Give Them A Listen!

The countdown ends tomorrow; come on back.

Wednesday, September 22

The CDP's Top 50 3rd Wave Ska Albums (30-21).

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Welcome back. One of the major dynamics of Ska's 3rd Wave was the Punk Rock influence. From the two-tone era came violent, distorted upstrokes, blasting horns and pogo-worthy choruses. Therein lies a bit of an argument when it comes to determining what is 'Ska' and what is merely just 'Punk?' The 'Punk' argument is an unwinnable waste of time, but I did think this through when it came to my countdown.

Take Goldfinger for example. Goldfinger is a punk band, however I'd say that Hang Ups was a ska-influenced album, enough so to be lumped into this countdown. Limp and Animal Chin wrote songs with upstrokes from time to time, but I don't think anyone would consider either of them to be a Ska band, so Guitarded and The Ins And Outs Of Terrorism didn't make the list (despite the awesome titles). Same goes for Rancid, Leftover Crack and many others. The amount of time I spent discussing these merits as a teenager would do nothing more than bum you out, so don't think about that stuff too much as the countdown rolls on.

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30. Assorted Jelly Beans – Assorted Jelly Beans (1996)

Operation Ivy + The Vandals = Awesome.

Give Them A Listen!

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29. Dance Hall Crashers – Honey, I’m Homely (1997)

The dual-female vocalist gimmick paid deep dividends, not to mention their solid songwriting and Southern California style.

Give Them A Look (and listen)!

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28. Mu330 – Chumps On Parade (1997)

Influential and still touring if I recall correctly, my band was fortunate enough to share a stage with them in late 2001. They've been described as 'Weezer meets the Specials,' and that should either whet your appetite or tune you out completely.

Give Them A Listen!

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27. Edna’s Goldfish – Before You Knew Better (1998)

Some bands, some shows and some tracks function as Nostalgia Express Lanes, transporting you directly to some of the best points of your life. For whatever reason, it always seemed like Edna's Goldfish was always there to serve as the soundtrack, despite only releasing two albums in their career.

Give Them A Listen!

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26. The Gadjits – At Ease (1998)

Mediocre At Best played two shows with the prolific Phillips Brothers, who now play and tour as the Architects. Their ska days now far behind them, these are musicians who do nothing but improve exponentially each time they release an album.

Give Them A Listen!

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25. Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Don’t Know How To Party (1993)

If we're talking influential albums, then Don't Know How To Party would be a lot closer to #1, but I'll admit that the Bosstones weren't on the center of my radar in the mid-to-late 90's. Regardless, this album kills and the 3rd Wave owes a permanent debt of gratitude to the Cambridge pioneers.

Give Them A Listen!

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24. Mad Caddies – Duck & Cover (1998)

With a great singer, a constant willingness to reinvent the genre, and two of the best brass players I've ever heard, Duck & Cover was the album that showed everyone just what the Caddies were capable of doing, and considering they're still as popular as ever in 2010, I'd say they made their point.

Give Them A Listen!

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23. Mustard Plug – Pray For Mojo (1999)

If you know Ska, then you know Mustard Plug. The night we opened for them at a sold out Concert Cafe in Green Bay was sincerely one of the greatest nights of my life, and they brought the pain the same way they continue to this very day. One of the longest-standing and most consistent bands in the genre, Pray For Mojo was fun, solid and exciting from beginning to end.

Give Them A Listen!

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22. Less Than Jake – Losing Streak (1996)

Losing Streak is one of three LTJ albums on this list, so I'll have time to talk more about them later. The below link is to their video for 'Automatic,' a video I watched religiously in my teen years, spinning this album hundreds of times and waiting patiently for LTJ to show up in Wisconsin. Sure enough, once I got the chance to see them (and I've seen them over a dozen times now) they delivered in a way that only they could. Check it out.

(Please) Give Them A Listen!

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21. Telegraph – 10 Songs & Then Some/Quit Your Band (1996/1998)

Telegraph was the ska band that most of the other local ska bands wanted to be. A band's band, or something like that. Whatever the case, their influence and prowess is still listenable and energetic to this day.

Give Them A Listen!

More countdown tomorrow; come on back.

Tuesday, September 21

The CDP's Top 50 3rd Wave Ska Albums (40-31).

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Welcome back to Day Two of my countdown of the Top 50 3rd Wave Ska Albums Of All-Time. This is a genre that passed by probably 90% of the general population, and still plenty more chalked it up to fad, much like the Swing movement taking place at the same time. However, if it hit you at the right time and right place, it became a way of life, at least for a little while.

In 1996 and 1997, I did everything I could to turn my friends on to Ska. I would leave Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish albums strewn around CD players and bedrooms, hoping that I could convert enough people so I could at least have a conversation with someone about the genre. At the time, the Internet was still in its infancy, and websites devoted to Ska or Ska bands were limited at best. Once my friends caught on, it was all downhill from there.

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40. Save Ferris – It Means Everything (1997)

Monique > Gwen.

Give Them A Listen!

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39. Voodoo Glow Skulls – Who Is, This Is? (1994)

One of the hardest, fastest, angriest and most talented pioneers of the movement, VGS is still wrecking shows nationwide after over two decades of destruction.

Give Them A Listen!

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38. Skankin’ Pickle - Skafunkrastapunk (1995)

Mike Park, man. You either get him or you don't.

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37. Mad Caddies – Quality Soft Core (1997)

A band that has consistently released good albums and altered their sound to stay relevant, the Caddies first effort is a classic of punk, reggae, and Pirate-core sing-alongs.

Give Them A Listen!

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36. Liberator – Worldwide Delivery (2000)

Sweden knows pop music, and Liberator took that know-how and put together a solid sophomore effort that slid under the radar of most Ska fans in 2000.

Give Them A Listen!

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35. Buck-O-Nine – Twenty-Eight Teeth (1997)

The first Ska album I bought with my own money, Twenty-Eight Teeth is solid, fun, uptempo and an instant classic. Almost required listening for any fan of the 3rd Wave.

Give Them A Listen!

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34. Jeffries Fan Club – Nothing To Prove (1998)

When Orange County was exploding with mainstream Ska popularity, Jeffries Fan Club was the band they all thanked and looked up to, and for good reason.

Give Them A Listen!

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33. Streetlight Manifesto – Somewhere In The Between (2007)

The most recent album of original tunes is vintage Streetlight (and more importantly, vintage Thomas Kalnoky). Almost universally-acclaimed as the best Ska band working today.

Give Them A Listen (seriously)!

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32. Five Iron Frenzy – Our Newest Album Ever! (1998)

Christian Ska averaged one winner for every hundred losers, and Our Newest Album Ever! transcended the often-negative stereotype and gave these guys a spot on the wildly successful Ska Against Racism tour that year.

Give Them A Listen!

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31. Potshot – Pots & Shots (1997)

Ska music is, by definition, fun music that transcends languages and ethnicities. However, Japanese ska takes that notion to a completely different level. The debut album from Potshot is still terribly catchy and more ear candy than even the most sugar-coated power pop.

Give Them A (awesome live) Listen!

More countdown tomorrow; come on back.

Monday, September 20

The CDP's Top 50 3rd Wave Ska Albums (50-41).

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This is the last week of Summer, and one of my fondest memories of the season had to be the Summer of 1998. I had just gotten my Drivers License, bought a 1986 Buick Somerset, and spent the next three months tooling around my neighborhood listening to what are still some of my favorite albums of all-time.

The Summer of 1998 was also the Summer of Third-Wave ska (as were the two prior to it, if you were like me and my friends), so I wanted to wind out the 2010 Summer season in style by counting down my 50 Favorite Third-Wave Ska Albums Of All-Time. So dig out your newsie hat, suspenders, checkerboard sunglasses and Doc Martens, and get recent-nostalgic with me. Let's go.

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50. Something To Do – I Command You To Dance (2007)

I used the cover of their newest album, as the other one was way too pixelated, and I was at the above show (Skappleton 2010, way in the back).

Give Them A Listen!

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49. 5 O’Clock Charlie – Not Enough Time (1999)

This Wisconsin band was one of the first local ska-punk acts I had ever seen, and I vowed to play a show with them some day. One year later, it happened and I rejoiced.

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48. (tie) Blue Meanies – Kiss Your Ass Goodbye (1995)

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48. (tie) Blue Meanies - Full Throttle (1997)

Another band I played a show with, the Meanies only know one speed: Murder. Ultra-talented and genre-influential.

Give Them A Listen!

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47. The Chinkees – The Chinkees…Are Coming! (1998)

If you know 3rd Wave Ska, you know about Mike Park and Asian Man Records. His anti-racist, anti-homophobia, pro-unity manifest is essentially the basis of what Ska is all about.

Give Them A Listen!

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46. Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Let’s Face It (1997)

For being one of the most popular 3rd Wave albums of the era, Let's Face It was actually pretty good, too.

Give Them A Listen!

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45. First Grade Crush – It’s Not You, It’s Me (1998)

Chicago represent. Jump Up! Records released some great stuff in their day, and this album had constant rotation in my Buick.

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44. The Hippos – Forget The World (1998)

One of the most all-around awesome bands of the day, this debut from The Hippos caused everyone else to step up their game when it came to mixing talented instrumentation and solid pop songwriting.

Give Them A Listen!

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43. Pilfers - Chawalaleng (1999)

One of the best live frontmen I've ever seen live, Coolie Ranx and the Pilfers disappeared way too soon.

Give Them A Listen!

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42. My Superhero – Station One (1999)

If Station One hadn't existed, I probably wouldn't be married right now (that's supposed to be a bad thing, by the way).

Give Them A Listen!

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41. The Toasters - Hard Band For Dead (1996)

The band that pretty much started the 3rd Wave, and another band that I had the fortune of playing a show with in 2000.

Give Them A Listen!

More countdown tomorrow; come on back.