Ska Me Crazy, by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra
Suggested by Matt Smith
I’ve such a soft spot for Ska. I love me some Madness, some Bad Manners. My favourite band is probably Fishbone, classic third wave funk/ska fusion.
I’ve such a soft spot for Japan. I’ve visited there many times, for many reasons. It’s a wonderful country.
Despite these two passions, I’ve never heard of Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. And they’ve been going since 1985. What the hell have I been missing?
Ska Me Crazy is one of many compilation albums by TSPO, as befits a band with a 35-year pedigree. It contains fifteen tracks of delightful ska-fused funk and jazz, each of which is musically tight and frantically uplifting. The vocals are sublime, as they manage to meld the great sense of fun and irreverence you’d expect of funky ska with the boundless charm of Japanese English and it’s associated accented vernacular.
I’m a sucker for such frippery – my first trip to Japan saw me return with a t-shirt emblazoned with an airborne platypus, above which the slogan read “DUCKBILL FLIES INTO RAPTUES”. To this day, I’m unsure what a ‘raptue’ actually is.
There’s a handful of distinct styles at play here, underpinned by a classic two-tone sound. The Last Bandoleros has a predictably Spaghetti Western feel, and Call From Rio brings the carnival atmosphere you’d expect. When the songs stay true to the ska core, in songs such as Natty Parade and my favourite A Quick Drunkard, the sense of fun is palpable, oozing from every offbeat snare and staccato “chuck-a-chuck-chuck” vocal.
Ska bands do love an instrumental. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of the Theme for Enter the Dragon, but I feel that each instrumental was a wasted opportunity given the verve of their vocal performance. I can get over that, because with 23 studio albums, plus life albums, compilations, collaborations, side projects and more, that’s a lot of ska to discover and digest.
I’ll give Ska Me Crazy 7/10, as an excellent example of a musical niche. Next time I fancy getting my stomp on, I’ll be delving into their back catalogue.