The Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Skaboy JFK: The Skankin¹ Hits of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (Cover Artwork)

The Cherry Poppin' Daddies

Skaboy JFK: The Skankin¹ Hits of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (2009)

Rock Ridge

Veteran American ska fans like myself have a hard time accepting that it isn't 1994 anymore. The days of that freewheeling, musically diverse indie subculture spearheaded by such titans as the Toasters and Skankin' Pickle have more or less faded away, overtaken by Reel Big Fish clones and a commercially-viable pop sensibility. It's not so much a matter of sell-out soulless-ness, but rather just the lack of the ska *spirit* that prevailed back when being a Rudie was a way of life: the beat, the attitude, the atmosphere...even the style is gone from the scene nowadays; I can't even recall the last time I saw a porkpie hat. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies' new album, Skaboy JFK, a compilation of the band's ska material stretching back to the mid-'90s, is not a solution to ska's modern-day woes, but it is most certainly heavy with said spirit, a much-needed breath of fresh air and an excellent reminder of why we fell in love with ska before it hit the Top 40.

Let's make this clear: Skaboy JFK is good, solid third wave. No obnoxious pop-punk-with-horns, frat boy reggae-rock or some ungodly swing hybrid -- we're talkin' the pure, truly skankable Toasters/Pietasters-style stuff, like what your daddy used to jive to before Less Than Jake hit the charts. Ah, memories! The steady rhythms help the entire album flow smoothly from start to finish, riding on an insane level of horn-heavy energy, though this unfortunately comes at the expense of strong individual tracks; only a few cuts really stand out on their own, leaving the rest to eventually blend into repetitive third wave genericism after a number of listens. However, the varying styles of ska utilized on the album -- trad, 2 Tone, reggae, ska-punk, funk-fusion -- is fresh enough that one might get through quite a number of listens before that happens.

Of those tracks that really shine are: "Don Quixote," a veteran of mid-'90s indie ska comps whose funky, swingy ska-core wouldn't sound out of place on a Blue Meanies record; "Pool Shark," a breakneck fast lounge-y number with a killer hornline; "Slapstick," a detour into funk which is impossible not to groove to; and "Soul Cadillac," a mellow, smoothly sung soul number. The Daddies hit total gold, however, on "Hi and Lo," an anthemic Bosstones-esque ska-punk tour de force that should've been just as big a hit as "The Impression That I Get" or "Sell Out" -- ska-punk at its finest.

With a name like Skaboy JFK: The Skankin‘ Hits of..., it's obvious the Daddies are trying to escape the stigma of their "swing band" image, and, with the right marketing and proper attention from the target audience, they may finally do just that. Skaboy JFK may not be ska's saving grace, nor will it gain the Daddies any more platinum records, but it is most certainly the band's most solid release, and for anyone feeling nostalgic for the days of Moon Records-era third wave and/or something to shake your skinny tied, wing-tipped ass to, this is your checkered ticket. As a Daddies fan, my only complaint is that they didn't find a way to sneak "Teenage Brainsurgeon" or "Blood Orange Sun" onto the album. Your only complaint, I assume, will be "why wasn't I listening to these guys sooner?"