Various Artists – We Do The Ska

5 out of 5

Label: Jump Up! Records

Produced by: Various

We Do The Ska is a freebie compilation offered by Jump Up! Records, a label “specializ(ing) in modern bands who play original Jamaican ska, reggae, rock steady, and calypso,” none of which are genres I’m particularly intrigued by. My touchpoint to ska was the 90s alternative radio, which meant “skunk” and rock-oriented ska, and from that I found Mephiskapheles, who’ve had some reissues put out by Jump!, along with some new material. In my orders: We Do The Ska.

I tried the more classic 2-tone style stuff and rock steady back in the day, and I couldn’t get very far with it. I’d say the same is true now, so my ears are not the best for this compilation. I’m still of the general opinion that much of that Jump!’s various specializations are rather similar within each classification – a lot of Jamaican ska sounds the same to me; a lot of rock steady sounds the same to me; etc. But I’m also aware of how we warm to genres, and how bands’ uniquenesses become more apparent the more you explore.

Now, I’m a more patient listener today than I was as a teen, when punk / ska comps were often pretty cheap and I’d pick them up with other purchases, give them a go, and form my “this all sounds alike!” opinion as summarized above, but even taking that into account, We Do The Ska is very, very listenable. It doesn’t break any of the genre trends I associate with the scene – like, yup, this is ska alright – but whomever pieced this comp together did an excellent job of navigating between different moods and vocal styles and tones, track to track. The clue is that even this staunch, anti-this-stuff listener found tracks within the 22 available that made me check out some bandcamp pages, and not just the first few artists when I’m likely more attentive – but stuff from deeper in the set, even.

And that’s really my main criteria for a sampler: does it well represent the label? Surely. Does it provide a good listening experience in support of that? Yes, very much so. Furthermore, We Do The Ska has an important detail that a lot of label samplers screw up: all of these artists have releases on Jump Up!, so if I’m truly intrigued, I can go over to the label and do my shopping there, no need for an internet hunt to find a stray web page or to discover that this comp is a group’s only appearance. Also, y’know, the disc was free, so any new discoveries are truly a bonus.