MUSIC: John Reviews Oreskaband’s Self-Titled U.S. Album

The aptly named Oreskaband (which translates to “We’re A Ska Band”) is a all-female third wave ska band from Sakai, Japan. Like so many others in the genre, the members of Oreskaband met and formed during their years in the school marching band. Now high school graduates, they tour countries all over the world and have recorded two albums in Japan. Oreskaband is an amalgamation of their two Japanese albums and currently their only American release. I had originally planned to write an elaborate fan-fiction introduction to this piece featuring a visiting Reel Big Fish (who had taken over world-saving duties from fellow ska band The Aquabats) defending Sakai from the evils of Aquabats villain Dr. Space Mummy and his latest nefarious weapon: The Kawaii ray. Blasted by the Kawaii ray in the hope of neutralizing them, RBF would find themselves turned into 19-year-old Japanese girls! Too bad Dr. Space Mummy didn’t count on them still being able to rock the house as Oreskaband! … This is the way my mind works, folks. Needless to say, if ska music (or Japanese-language music) is not your thing, now would be the time to stop reading.

Still here? Excellent! Here’s some information about the standout tracks:

“Pantime” – A fantastic intro track, it lets you know exactly what you’ll be hearing on the rest of the album: Unabashed, unapologetic third wave ska music with enough energy to power a Las Vegas city block. I liked this one so much that I uploaded to my phone as my primary ringtone. Unfortunately, the live recordings of it on youtube don’t do the song justice.

Oh Yeah! Ska Dance” – Other than the tracks featured in various anime credits sequences, this is the album’s big hit. I have no idea what it’s about, but i can tell you that it is great for dancing and just generally putting the listener in a good mood. It is the first song in their music video duology, wherein the band plays for a packed crowd (who all love Pocky!) on a train. Why can’t my morning commute be this fun?

“Chuck” – Another fun song with a fantastic opening, I felt like I was only getting half the experience by not seeing them play this song live. This video of fans having a blast will have to suffice, I suppose. This song is in English, but it’s still a bit difficult to understand because of their accents and general translation problems. I can tell you that someone is referred to as a “smarty pants,” though.

“Monkey Man (Monkey Monkey Man)” – While I may have initially compared Oreskaband to Reel Big Fish, this song shatters that comparison. Both bands covered “Monkey Man” in completely different ways. In fact, I would say that while RBF’s version sounds like a slightly updated version of the Specials’ version, Oreskaband does a better job of paying tribute to the original Toots & the Maytals song. (Hey, anything’s better than that gawd-awful Amy Winehouse cover.) They clearly share my belief when it comes to covers: The best covers are ones that don’t try to sound exactly like the original, and instead inject their interpretation of the original’s themes into their own style. A few of my personal favorites along these lines are The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies’ cover of Operation Ivy’s “Sound System,” The Suicide Machines’ cover of “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” and Goldfinger’s cover of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons.”

Almond (song)” – Not all of Oreskaband’s songs are crazy and/or fast. “Almond” is a great example of the band’s understanding of ska as a multi-faceted genre, and showcases their ability to do songs more in line with traditional tempos, even if the vocals are in a more modern style.

THE BREAKDOWN

PROS: Oreskaband is a textbook example of third-wave ska music. They would have sounded more at home on the Warped Tour’s 1997 lineup than on its current one, but who knows? Maybe they’ll restart a trend. Though most of the lyrics are in Japanese, Oreskaband manages to make their songs relatable to anyone who enjoys the genre. Their cover of “Monkey Man” is one of the best I have ever heard.

CONS: I cannot recommend Oreskaband if you dislike any of the following: ska music, female-fronted bands, or the Japanese language. Their English (or should I say Engrish?) songs are difficult to understand, and the lyrics make about as much sense as such songs ever do, with the obvious exception of Monkey Man.

RATING: 8/10. This band is off to a great start.

SOUNDS LIKE: Potshot, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Reel Big Fish, Save Ferris, Mustard Plug, The Hippos, The Witches.

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