from SPIN

How Ska’s Revival Is Pushing Mental Health

Despite a battle against the memes, ska is back and with a new generation’s message

By Brendan Menapace

At this point, the jokes about ska are about as tired as the jokes about fedoras — which are maybe one of the more deserved of the many digs at ska. It’s got horns. It’s corny. It’s silly. It’s “what plays in a 13-year-old kid’s head when he gets extra mozzarella sticks,” as the internet would tell you.

They’re easy jokes to make, and there are bands that venture into silly territory with costumes and lighthearted songs, but for every Aquabats, there’s a Less Than Jake singing about feelings of failure and anxiety or Reel Big Fish writing songs about feeling like they’re never enough.

For so many, ska is the sound of revolution. Bands like the Specials and Madness have been using the genre to talk about topics like race and class issues. As the genre evolves, that “sound of revolution” echoes the societal changes and cultural shifts. Right now, ska bands are creating another “revival” and re-analysis of the genre by discussing things like mental health, gender, and LGBTQIA+ representation.

“Releasing songs in a style you enjoy, around the internal dialogue that’s haunting you at the time, doesn’t deserve to be boiled down to ‘what you hear in your head when you get extra mozzarella sticks,’” Flying Raccoon Suit vocalist Jessica Jeansonne says. “I wish people would not discount someone’s art just because there’s a little bit of trumpet in it. There’s a whole underlying message of somebody suffering, but somebody hears a trumpet and it’s ‘There’s that cheese.’”

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