A reimagined dream
Well, it’s easy to see the ’90s are back, just take a look around Target or scroll through social media. And what were the ’90s without some Ska? The genre has a little revival going on this year, first with The Mighty Mighty BosStones, and now Jeff Rosenstock reimagined his album of the year 2020, NO DREAM, into a ska album, SKA DREAM. Ska always offers something comforting; it’s a little goofy, chaotic and a lot of joy. On his Bandcamp site, Rosenstock explains how a fun little jam developed in a serious fun project, resulting in SKA DREAM.
He further notes, “We all understand the stigma that comes along with ska, we’ve all dealt with the pitfalls of it, and we’ve all kept on truckin’ regardless. If you are one of those people who loves music as long as it isn’t ska, that’s cool, we see you. This record isn’t for you and you don’t have to listen to it.” This is REALLY is a ska album, trough and trough. It’s hard to miss, mostly because most songs have been renamed, so they have some ska in their title or at least a ska-related pun.
The album begins with the retitled “NO TIME,” now “NO TIME TO SKANK.” The song features all the right notes, the ska-like reggae and some harder punk moments. It’s a fun listen. You can already hear all the fun Rosenstock and his crew had when recording the album. “SKrAm!” (or “Scram!”) is definitely one of the many highlights on the album, the song is already good in its original form, but the ska version shows a different side of the song, a refreshing one. “NO DREAM” becomes “SKA DREAM,” and the fast ending of the song makes it so distinct and hard to not move to it, scream along and just letting loose for a few moments. And isn’t that what ska is about? Letting loose? Even during slower songs, like “Horn Line” (aka “State Line”), the feeling is just right; it’s relaxing and a little emotional.
“p i c k i t u p” (“f a m e”) starts a little less ska, showing that a ska album doesn’t have to be just ska the entire time. The song still features more central female vocals, which adds a different nuance to the song and offers a fresh breeze to the album. This also works well during “Ohio Porkpie” (“Ohio Tpke”). One of the standouts on NO DREAM, “***BNB,” is now “***SKA,” and it continues to be a highlight on SKA DREAM. As the lyrics haven’t changed, the fun nature of ska compliments the song perfectly. “Monday At Back To The Beach” is a far dreamier version of “Monday At The Beach.” The short song really carries the beach feeling with it.
While it is understandable that ska might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the album delivers a fresh take on the genre. The fun the crew had making this album is obvious in every second of each song. NO DREAM was a hit for Jeff Rosenstock, and SKA DREAM is actually a pretty creative way to handle the boredom of a global pandemic and lack of performing live. With this album, Rosenstock proves once more how valuable he is for the punk scene.