Ska has experienced waves of popularity over the years. Right now, it seems to be experiencing a return to popularity in some circles. Big D and the Kids Table is one of the bands that has made ska music for nearly a quarter century. You read that correctly. The band released its first album Shot by Lammi in 1997. From that time, David McWane has set out to write records like the ones that defined his teenage years. He and the band have done a pretty good job of that. Every album by this band has focused on songs that are energetic and fun for the band and the fans.
Even though he’s in his 40s now, McWane still wants to make the kind of records that he loved as a kid. Of the new album DO YOUR ART (SideOne Dummy Records), he said, “The sound of DO YOUR ART is similar to a full day at the water park. It is sunny, a freakin’ blast, and packed with adrenaline. Some songs drop you right in, straight down, blasting forward, while other songs loop you about, spinning you around and dunk you. So put your dang suit on, smile, laugh and get wet.”
One of the songs to get you spinning around is the opener “Dead Bottle”. The tempo of this one is all out, and the verses are enough to get people going in a circle pit. Fittingly for a song that draws so heavily from punk, this one is over after only 1:44. It is, however, enough to get you to break a sweat right from the beginning.
There are a lot of fun songs on the album. Some like “You Buggin’” are downright silly, but that’s not unusual for ska. However, what makes this album different is that the band shows it can even have fun while getting introspective. In “Too Much”, McWane reflects on the fact that people always tell him he’s too much. With a a rocksteady rhythm and a bright and bouncy melody behind him, complete with horn blasts to rival Reel Big Fish, he sings, “Never signed up to play by any of the rules. Wallpapered my room with all of my bad reviews.” It’s a good lesson in accepting who you are.
The band even embraces some social commentary in “Dispirit”. It’s not often you hear a ska song about class warfare, but that’s what this song is. “Always dispirit the middle class to watch the plutocrats trick the middle class.” It’s an impressive commentary in general. It’s even more impressive that the band uses the word plutocrat, which sounds distinctly like a word that Bad Religion would use. Meanwhile, upbeat melody featuring horns and organ brings a lot of fun to a song with a fairly heavy message. DO YOUR ART by Big D and The Kids Table is a fun punk-ska album. Does it break any new ground? Not really. Does it compare to a full day at the water park? It does. It is a lot of fun and it passes far too quickly. Perhaps another way to think about it is that maybe it’s not an album that will change the world, but it is an album that can change your mood.