Ska music, specifically ska-punk, is my favorite style of music. The quickness and power chords of pop-punk mixed with the horns and upstrokes of ska makes for a fun, catchy style of music. Over the years, there have been many fantastic ska albums. Today, I will go through all of my favorites and decide on my personal top ten ska albums of all time. As a disclaimer, these are solely my opinions, feel free to share your own top ten ska albums in the comments. Without further ado, let’s get on with it.
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This is one of the older Less Than Jake records and it features the classic Less Than Jake speed and punk-stylings that have become so iconic. This is the record that put Less Than Jake on the map, and they only got better over time. Some may consider it blasphemous to have an LTJ album this low but stay tuned for more Less Than Jake on this list. Standout songs include – “How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?” “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts,” and “Dopeman.”
Jeffries Fan Club is a fun, upbeat band and this album perfectly exemplifies those traits. This is an album that I feel doesn’t get talked about enough, despite Jeffries Fan Club being a mainstay in the Orange County ska scene of the 90’s. The horn parts are catchy, the basslines are tight, and the beats are danceable. Overall, this is an excellent ska-punk album that every ska fan should give a listen. Standout songs include – “Something Good” and “Crystal 52.”
For many, this is THE ska-punk album. It’s a classic of the 90’s ska scene and home to classic songs. The horn lines are instantly memorable and iconic. Reel Big Fish really excel at creating fun, upbeat ska-punk songs and this album is the perfect example of this. Though Turn The Radio Off is not my favorite Reel Big Fish album (we’ll get to that later), it definitely is the most iconic and important for the third wave of ska. Standout songs include – “Sell Out,” “Trendy,” and “Beer.”
Sublime was one of the few 90’s ska bands to successfully make the migration over to the mainstream. Maybe this was because their sound may have been more reggae-punk than ska-punk. Either way, this album is heavily ska-influenced and deserves a place on this list. Released after the death of frontman Bradley Nowell, Sublime’s self-titled album serves as a magnum opus of sorts. The songs are very personal to Nowell, yet catchy and fun at the same time. This is one of the most historic ska-punk albums and rightfully so. Standout songs include – “Santeria,” “Wrong Way,” and “What I Got.”
Save Ferris is one of the most popular ska-punk bands, though they really only had one great ska album. It Means Everything is their debut album, released in 1997, and their next album, Modified, is not even a ska album at all, more power-pop. It really speaks to the strength of this album that Save Ferris managed to become a ska-punk mainstay through just one great album. The horn section on this album is particularly outstanding, with many memorable horn lines to get stuck in your head for weeks. It Means Everything is full of fun, light-hearted ska-punk tunes that are sure to be a delight to any ska fan. Standout songs include – “The World Is New,” “Come On Eileen,” and “Spam.”
This is one of those albums that doesn’t have a bad song on it. From start to finish, Edna’s Goldfish deliver great ska-punk songs. This album is fast, full of energy, and instantly memorable. There isn’t a dull moment on Before You Knew Better. This is a severely underappreciated album within the ska-punk community and I hope all ska fans give this album a listen and hopefully understand how great it truly is. Standout songs include – “I’m Your Density,” “Sunrise to Sunset,” and “Eventually, Anyway.”
This album is Less Than Jake at their best. The songs are catchy, the music is fast, and the punk really mixes with the ska to create a beautiful piece of musical fusion. Less Than Jake have always leaned towards the punk side of ska-punk and Hello Rockview really shows how great this unique combination can be. The punchy horn lines add an immense amount to every song and the quick guitar chords are enough to make anyone want to get up and dance. I wrote a whole article about this album, so please check it out if you’d like. Standout songs include – “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads,” “History Of A Boring Town,” and “Scott Farcas Takes It On The Chin.”
The Forces of Evil was a side project started by Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish alongside ex-members of Jeffries Fan Club and other Orange County musicians. They only released one full-length album, but that one album is incredible. Lyrically, Friend or FOE is a harshly negative album. These pessimistic lyrics put over the upbeat, jovial horns and upstrokes make for a striking juxtaposition. Aside from that novelty, the songs are just all around excellent. They are infectiously catchy and make for some great fun. Check out my full article looking back on this album here. Standout songs include – “Angry Anthem,” “Mistake,” and “Fight.”
Heads Are Gonna Roll is the second full-length release from The Hippos and perfectly encapsulates their sound. This album uniquely combines ska-punk with synthesizers, for a different, engaging experience. The frontman of the group, Ariel Rechtshaid, went on to become a successful pop music songwriter and producer, so it should come as no surprise that this album is extraordinarily catchy. The lyrics may not be Shakespeare, but there’s no doubt that they get stuck in your head pretty quickly. After one listen-through, you are sure to be humming along to the synth lines and reciting the lines to many of the songs effortlessly. I wrote a full article about this album if you’d like to give it a read. Standout songs include – “Lost It,” “Thinking,” and “Wasting My Life.”
I don’t even know where to begin with this album. It is so excruciatingly outstanding that I have difficulty putting it into words. The guitars mixed with the horns, the lyrics, the basslines, everything about this album is incredible. Reel Big Fish stepped their game up immensely with this album after Turn The Radio Off. The guitar solos are more impressive, the horn lines are bigger, and the energy is cranked up to eleven. The sheer variety on this album is amazing. In addition to the typical Reel Big Fish ska-punk, this album houses an acoustic ballad, a few reggae jams, rock anthems, and just some plain weird, yet amazing, songs (Everything is Cool). To read my thoughts put into a more cohesive package, please check out my article on this album, it’s one of my first articles. Standout songs include – “The Set Up (You Need This),” “Down In Flames,” “I’m Cool,” “She’s Famous Now,” “Big Star,” and MANY MORE!
Thanks for reading my list and caring about my amateur opinions. Looking back on this list, I’m pretty happy with it. Perhaps too much 90’s, but oh well, it is just my opinion after all. I hope you enjoyed this list. Let me know in the comments if you want to see more content like this and share your top ten ska-punk albums. I always need more ska-punk music in my life!
Top Image – Reel Big Fish – Source: The Pop Break