When it comes down to it, Florida just isn’t that bad a place. Sure, we’ve got more old people than an AARP convention, and the millions of tourists don’t help the percentage of bad drivers braving the roads. Yet, there’s that one thing that certainly stands out as a reason to be proud to be living in a state that has two seasons (summer and summer that gets a little chilly), and that one thing is the ska scene. Those bands that get the crowd moving before the nationally touring acts take to the stage and often have their own shows at various clubs around the state are always out there playing and recording, and they’re really good. As a testament to the strong local bands in the area, the second helping of Closer Than You: Florida Ska comes out highlighting 20 of Florida’s best ska bands. If you haven’t kept up on the myriad of bands floating around Florida recently, or even if you have, then you’re certainly in for a pleasant surprise.
Opening with “Alpha 66” by South Florida’s leader in the ska world, King 7 and the Soulsonics, this infectious instrumental sets the mood for this tour through Florida’s answer for great homegrown music. Magadog’s laid-back “Lita” is the second track off the album, and is just one of the handful of bands from Florida that have hit it big, touring and being distributed nationally. Other notables are the Strangeways with “Lisa Brown Eyes,” “Hey Boy” by the Usuals, and “Uisge-Beatha (Whiskey)” from Florida’s Celtic Ska band, Pork Pie Tribe. Just about every sub-genre of ska is represented, be it punk/ska with Baker Act’s “By The Clock” and Moxie’s “You and Me,” funk-ska with Gigolo Big & the Barflies, traditional grooves with Skahumbug’s “Skinhead Jean Sale” and the Progressions, or good ol’ third wave sounds from bands like Majik Dirt and the Double Deckers. Then there’s the uncategorical “As Per Usual,” a collaboration between Skif Dank and the Nature Kids, as well as number of bands that fit more than one bill, such as the Double Agents and Taxi.
Closer Than You II, dedicated to the late Skatalite Tommy McCook, is truly the answer to anyone who ever complains about the Florida ska scene. With twenty tracks and such a range of sounds, it’s nearly impossible to be disappointed with the album. Although at first I worried that the album might sound like a bunch of “local bands” that stumbled their way into a studio, I quickly found this to be one the most enjoyable compilations I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting my hands on. I couldn’t find one track that I actually disliked, and my faith in the Florida scene has been astronomically increased. Seeing the more easily accessible bands like King 7 and Pork Pie Tribe, I always knew there was something great out there. And with this second installment of Closer Than You, that something great is about as easily accessible as it could possibly be. Citrus Records, P.O. Box 9403, Tampa, FL 33674-9403; http://www.floridaska.com/citrus