From NJ with Love!

Shakin’ Not Stirred – NJ Ska!

Review

by Jo-Ann Greene
For the ska scene, the spectacular two-CD compilation Skarmageddon was proof positive that the third wave had swept across every corner of the country, and held out hope of it finally washing out into the mainstream. With zero interest from the majors, little hope of airplay outside one’s own locale, and only the brave (and foolhardy) touring the underbelly of clubs outside their region, only rumor and fanzines gave hint to what was happening elsewhere. Skarmageddon would change all that, helping to pull together a disparate scene and present a united face to the larger world. It was, however, not a partially representative selection of bands, nor was it by any means a best-of-the-scene compilation, although some extremely good bands can be found within. Instead it’s a snapshot of the times, intended as a leg up for bands that hadn’t yet or were just beginning to make an impact. Two years earlier, in 1992, Moon Ska had released the seminal California Ska-Quake set. No encores for those bands, however, as a new crew of two would now represent the Golden State.

Those Mid-Westerners that had featured on Jump Up’s equally crucial 1993 American Skathiccompilation were luckier. Several would be picked up by Moon for Skarmageddon. And so the set trawled the States, pulling in bands from as far afield as Seattle, Portland, Maine, and Tampa, FL, with even a stray Canadian managing to sneak over the border and onto the set. Thirty-one bands in all, together providing a perfect primer for the vast variety of sounds to be found around the scene. And although the majority of the groups are 2 Tone-based (this is a Moon release after all), there’s plenty of spatters of skacore and trad to give a fair shake to the entire third wave scene. For some groups this was just the beginning, with a good number going on to then release stellar albums off the back of their performances here. For others, notably Agent 99, it was to prove to be their swan songs. Not a complete overview of ska circa 1994, but a thrilling ride through what was on offer, nonetheless, and remains a must-have set for every pork-pie-hatted fan.