Big D and the Kids Table - Do Your Art (Cover Artwork)

Big D and the Kids Table

Do Your Art (2021)

Side One Dummy Records

Spanning 25 years, featuring upwards of 30 members in that time, and sitting promptly between the 4th and 5th wave of ska music is Big D and the Kids Table. Not quite old enough as a band to experience the rise of the ladder and a little bit too old to be considered part of the new rising ska scene across the globe. In other words, Big Ds been out here. Their discography is better for it featuring everything from dubbed out remixes to jazzy Doped Up Dollies to snotty punk. Big D explores every associated sound in the ska/punk/reggae spectrum. With Do Your Art, Big D proudly wave their own flag, collapsing the best of their discog into a cohesive return after an eight year break from original material.

Opening with the forever teenage sound of smashing glass bottles, Do Your Art is out the gate from the opener with a new feature for their albums, a sub two minute punk song. Think the Descendents, but filtered through Big D’s sound. “Broken Glass,” “Metal in the Microwave,” “Militant Humorist,” and “Race Car Song” all follow this formula with blasts of everyday mundane humor and pointed rants courtesy of band leader David McWane. “Metal in the Microwave,” as the title would suggest, is about the type of self destructive boredom that leads to microwave experimentation. In addition, Big D use a handful of transition songs that feel cut and pasted in to enhance the overall flow and pace of the album. Do Your Art benefits from a full listen through because of this.

One of those transitions, “Teenagers From Outer Space,” is the best demonstration of this with mashed up movie scenes, echo, and reverb manipulations into “Lost In London.” The song serves as the centerpiece to Do Your Art and has a huge collection of drums, bass, and horns propelling McWane’s story of travels in London. It wouldn’t be wrong to compare this song to something that The B52’s might put out, but its sounds have all been explored adeptly in past releases by Big D. Much of Do Your Art is like that; a flag in the ground for Big D in 2021.

“Lost In London” is followed by “Beautiful Way” and “Strong & Fair” which serve as the longest stretch of music topping ten minutes plus before the transitions take you out. As the middle movement on Do Your Art, this is where Big D really allows the strength of the band to show. Moving from dubbed out ska to a more jazz based sound (with an incredibly motherfucking good flute solo at one point!) only to have a huge chorus splash out of nowhere with the help of the Doped Up Dollies. This is one of the best three-song-flow of ska songs on an album in 2021, a year with huge contenders moving the genre forward. Ironically, in part the credit is shared with Reel Big Fish’s Matt Appleton who produced and engineered the album’s sound.

McWane is as feisty as ever as a lyricist taking aim at individuality, the demise of original thought, and a fucked up political system that preys on the blood of the working class. As a vocalist, McWane operates as a storyteller, chant leader, and punk rock singer with the attitude to match. There’s not many artists who can address the overmedication of Generation Z through the affect ska is generally associated with. “Med Her Lazy” does. The song directly addresses overmedication of ADD and ADHD diagnoses that lead to zombied out growing kids. It’s a topic McWane feels a kinship to because of his own personal experiences.

Do Your Art is that type of mission statement for Big D. It’s an upbeat ska record that skanks with the best of those released this year. You may not be able to teach an old band new tricks, but bands don’t stick around without someone pretty fucking great tricks of their own. The best, like Big D, are still able to sound original while performing them.