As I sat here thinking about how I was wanted to assemble this “The Top 50 Third-Wave Ska Songs” list, it grew more and more apparent to me that no matter how hard I tried I could not satisfy the demands of any true ska fan, skanker, rude boy, or other person who read this. I mean, it’s in their nature to resist conforming to anyone else’s opinions. I respect and acknowledge that fact.
Anyways, this list doesn’t include any 1st or 2nd wave ska. I haven’t listened to nearly enough of those genres to include them in a list. I apologize in advance for those of you who feel my judgments/end results may be skewed or biased in favor of certain artists or styles. One guy’s list is, by nature, going to be biased.
What you’re probably looking for is the list. Go ahead and look at it, but I urge you to really read my explanations as to why the songs are in their place. That might give you a little better understanding as to why the songs are in the order that they are.
Lastly: If you know of any music you might think I like, I’m always open to suggestions and/or recommendations you fine people are willing to give me.
Here’s a handy little playlist you can use to listen to the music, courtesy of Grooveshark:
50. You Gotta Go – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
The Bosstones are considered the “Fathers of 3rd Wave Ska” by several fans, and they have a large fan base (many of whom are grown up now with better things to do than skank). Nevertheless, as an avid ska fan, I have stumbled upon the word “Bosstones” several times in my internet and music browsing. There is no better way to start off this list than returning to the origins of 3rd wave ska. The fast tempo and opening riff are the best part of the song. Unfortunately, the climax is so short that the rest of the song fails to match the excitement from the intro. It’s a really great tune, but doesn’t have the best arrangement.
49. Beer – Reel Big Fish
Being one of the very first ska songs I’ve ever heard, “Beer” is forever stuck in my head. The opening guitar solo is a nice hook, and the rest of the song stays about a steady pace, with only a slight deviation in tempo and style. The song is great, but plain; the lack of originality on this one is really a bummer. But Reel Big Fish’s songs are rarely more than catchy tunes, and that’s it. From a musician’s standpoint, I usually crave something more. I have a less forgiving view on RBF than most other 3rd wave enthusiasts.
48. Fight – The Forces of Evil
Forged from various ska bands, the Forces of Evil was an attempt to create a ska superband (much akin to BOTAR, which I will discuss later). Unfortunately, they never really clicked and only released one EP. One of their songs, however, did make it on this list. “Fight” is a song about rekindling the skanker attitude following the commercialization of third-wave ska. “You gotta fight for your right to skank!” leaves a strong, almost inspirational, impression. TFOE is closely related to RBF. The lead singer is the same, and the musical style of the piece has a very similar vibe.
47. The Impression that I Get – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
“The Impression that I Get” is the second and final Bosstones song on this list. Honestly, the Bosstones have been outdone. Although largely responsible for the broad effect ska had on America, the students quickly surpassed the teacher. I heard this song long before I even knew what ska was. I liked it then, and I like it still today. The horn parts manage to keep the piece interesting and the compelling progressions keep the listener interested. The most notable aspect of the song for me is that it was the first ska song I’d ever heard, and even that isn’t all that important (to the lay audience, at least).
46. She has a Girlfriend Now – Reel Big Fish
Ask anyone with a decent mind just what is the best part of this song. They will almost certainly respond “The sick-nasty trombone solo in the middle”, because it stands out as the greatest trombone solo in any of RBF’s songs, both in the live and studio recordings. Another notable part of this song is a special guest appearance from Monique Powell, lead singer of the ska band Save Ferris. If only the rest of the song was as exciting as that solo.
45. Sell Out – Reel Big Fish
I’m pretty rough on these guys, rougher than almost any ska fan I know. They’re outstanding musicians, and that’s obvious if you go to one of their concerts, but after just a few listens of this song, you’ll realize it’s not actually that great. It’s very catchy, like all of their music, and it was one of the first ska songs I’d ever heard. But let’s be honest, there are tons of better ska songs with more stylistic deviation and more creative enterprise.
44. Autumn in the Park – Suburban Legends
Opening with a memorable but short-lived Louis Armstrong-esque melody, this tune had me hooked from the first fifteen seconds of the first listen. Suburban Legends is notorious for their unmatched dance shtick and immature sense of humor. Their first few albums were rooted in ska, but have recently endeavored for a more disco-like sound; focusing on the pop elements of ska. This song presents a really catchy tune, along with a killer guitar solo, but it is outclassed by the more inventive and unique ska songs out there.
43. The Supertones Strike Back – The OC Supertones
As one of the first major third wave bands, the Supertones established themselves well in the ska world, providing a basis which several of the flourishing bands today still set their standards on. The lightning-fast lyrics and catchy horn part paint the typical third wave portrait. The only problem is it gets a little old by the end of the song, with the same phrases over and over, until it wraps up nicely at the end.
This song features a childish approach to the concept of love, as well as one of the greatest bass solos in any ska song I’ve ever heard. After said bass solo, the horns come in, with a new layer each phrase. It’s really done quite nicely. The upbeat attitude and feel of the song demonstrate quite clearly the musical capability of the band, and would set them up for future success.
The Aquabats have to be one of the weirdest bands around. I mean that in the best possible way. They’re the guilty pleasure to the inner-weirdo in all of us adores. That being said, the quality of their music has declined in recent years (in my humble opinion). After several listens of this song, I’m still not exactly sure what its intention is. I’m pretty sure, though, it’s the dictation of a fan letter to a postal service. You gotta hand it to the guys; that’s originality at its finest. The melody in this song is quite catchy and will surely attract multiple listens, if you’re willing to bear with the strange and interesting personality of the Aquabats.
50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1
Editor’s note for those interested in the origin of this list: Over the summer, I promised my brother he could write an article for Earn This. A couple weeks later, he had a huge series on the “Top 50 Third-Wave Ska Songs” prepared, but I never got around to cleaning it up and posting it. As a holiday gift to him, here it is.
About two years ago on an old site of mine, he wrote a similar article that, according to Google Analytics, has been read 1.5x as often than all of the articles on Earn This combined. Because that article took off and received a lot of comments, he decided to write another. This is the part one of five of his new, improved ska songs list. His views may have changed in the five months since he wrote this, but I’ll let him share that in the comments or a follow-up post.