For a long time, it wasn’t “cool” to say you like ska, but that never deterred me; I’m not cool anyway. I see Less Than Jake more often than I see my parents. I get through long days at work by listening to The Toasters, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Against All Authority, Buck-O-Nine, and my favorite hometown band Victims of Circumstance. In recent years, ska has enjoyed quite the revival, and the old guard is starting to make way for some new blood. Ska Tune Network has brought the genre to a new audience, with fun ska-punk covers of pop songs and video game music garnering over 12 million views on YouTube. The Interrupters are breaking into the mainstream and have even performed on national TV. The tide is turning, and for the first time in a long time, ska is cool again.
Naturally, with the revival of a genre comes a new wave of bands. New Jersey’s Joker’s Republic is part of a growing crop of ska-punk up-and-comers. Their new album Necessary Evil was recorded and produced by Less Than Jake’s Roger Lima at his Gainesville recording studio The Moathouse. If you’re a fan of the poppy “fourth wave” ska-punk formula played by bands like We Are The Union and Kill Lincoln, these guys are right up your alley. The production on this album is top notch, and the songwriting isn’t too shabby either. Necessary Evil, the band’s third effort, offers up a mix of pop-punk and ska, with a hint of skate punk. The album-opening title track is my favorite song, but the blazing fast “Talk To Me” is a close second. “Gin and Tonic” is cleverly built around a fun early Blink-182 sounding guitar riff that doubles as a bassline during the song’s second bridge. “Anxiety” and “Dead Man Walking” are both very skankable tracks with some really catchy hooks. The album wraps up with “Anchor”, a grooving mid-tempo ska song that reminds me a lot of “The Science of Selling Yourself Short“.
As much as I like this album, I have to say that Joker’s Republic and Necessary Evil would benefit greatly from the addition of a horn section. The opening track features a guest appearance from LTJ’s Buddy “Goldfinger” Schaub on trombone, laying down some awesome horn parts. This added a much needed extra layer of depth to the song’s melody, and rounded out the band’s sound very nicely. After this, on the album’s remaining nine tracks, there are no brass instruments to be found. How could you do this to me? I feel deceived, hustled, betrayed, and utterly bamboozled! Let’s Face It, ska just isn’t as good without horns; unless, of course, your band is named Operation Ivy. In other words, it’s time to start auditioning for your horn section, fellas!
These guys are a promising young band, and I look forward to watching them continue to evolve. Listening to their previous releases on Spotify and comparing it to their latest work, it’s easy to see that Joker’s Republic is progressing pretty quickly. Necessary Evil is by far their best work to date. Listen below and click here to grab the CD. If you prefer digital, visit their Bandcamp to download the album.