Do you remember a time way back in the early 1990s when ska was "invented" by bands such as Voodoo Glow Skulls, No Doubt and Rancid? Well, actually it was invented in the early 1980s by bands such as the Specials, Madness and Selecter. Oh, wait a minute, it was really invented in the early 1960s by Desmond Dekker and Prince Buster. It all seems so confusing sometimes. Let's leave that anthropological dilemma for scholars to argue about.
The phenomenon known as the "third-wave ska" movement came oozing out of California like a suspender-wearing plague and soon the entire country was infected with dance fever. Kids from Orange County, California to East Orange, New Jersey were skanking their little MTV-damaged asses off. Every city big enough to have a "scene" was awash with all-ages ska-punk shows, and a lot of the bands did very well touring nonstop and raking in the dough from merch sales. Several of the original third-wave ska bands either evolved or disbanded: No Doubt turned into a pop supergroup, while Rancid seems to have just faded away. Voodoo Glow Skulls, however, have persevered and kept trudging along the dark, brutal and unforgiving tour van circuit, still knocking the punk-rock youngsters dead with their somewhat unique brand of ska-punk. Part of the reason that VGS has survived may lie in the fact that their sound is just different enough from the thousands of other ska-punk bands that emerged when they did to keep your average 16-year-old kid with a pocketful of daddy's money interested. They have a little bit more metal in them than most, and their horn section is tight (not Earth, Wind & Fire tight, but...). The vocals sometimes vary between English and Spanish; in fact, they even released an all-Spanish language version of their 1996 album Firme. Voodoo Glow Skulls have carved out a niche in the world of rock, and there is no sign that they will leave it anytime soon. As long as there is a Warped Tour, as long as parents continue to drop their kids off at all-ages shows with $200 to spend on logo-emblazoned T-shirts and hoodies, as long as post-pubescent boys need a way to blow off their bottled-up testosterone, there will always be a place for Voodoo Glow Skulls. So, kids, put on your suspenders, temporarily dye your hair and head on out this Thursday for a taste of musical history thrice removed.
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