Nihon Ska Dansu
Land of the Rising Ska [KUT]
Moon’s latest excursion outside the US takes us to Japan, where there is a surprisingly healthy ska scene building. Nihon Ska Dansu showcases a wide variety of ska styles, from the traditional to third wave to ska-core. Unfortunately, it’s also a mixed bag in terms of quality, with some outstanding tracks next to some I’d just as soon have left in Japan.
Surprisingly enough, some of the best stuff on Nihon Ska Dansu is the traditional stuff. You wouldn’t imagine that Japan and Jamaica had much in common, but tracks like Blue Beat Players’ “Cool Ska” and Determinations’ “Lion Bite” might make you think twice. Elsewhere, there’s the straight-ahead third wave sounds of Rude Bones on “Short of Time,” which sounds more like the Toasters than anything else (no wonder Moon’s releasing a full-length by these guys), and a proliferation of Less Than Jake/Asian Man Records soundalikes, the better of which include Coke Head Hipsters (whose “Here Your Pop Food” is made up of some of the most unintentionally-funny lyrics you’ll ever come across. If this song wasn’t written in Japanese and then translated and sung in English, I’ll eat my copy.), Shoulder Hopper, and Duck Missile. You are left to wonder what happened to Kemuri, the best known Japanese band for the latter style of ska, though.
Then there’s the oddball stuff. If you’ve ever watched anime, you’re probably familiar with the kind of music that makes up the scores, and you’re probably aware that most of it is pretty bad. Imagine some of that music done as ska, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from the Sideburns’ “Down Town Blue Moon Junky Days” (which actually works, in a weird kind of way) and Fruity’s “S.A.G. to You,” (which doesn’t). Other things here that just don’t work are the hardcore with horns of Scafull King, the Reel Big Fish wannabe punk-ska of Snail Ramp, and the attempt at a Skoidats-styled fusion of Oi! and ska from the Oi-Skall Mates.
I can’t say that Nihon Ska Dansu is an album I’ll listen to a lot. It’s a very mixed bag, and I feel that in every case, there are bands of other nationalities that play the respective styles better. In other words, don’t expect a Japanese rudeboy invasion anytime soon, but if you’re curious about the Asian ska scene, this is an intriguing sample, and there are a few things here that just might catch on. Moon SKA NYC, P.O. Box 1412, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276; http://www.moonska.com