Friday, June 26, 2009

Ska Redux: Rancid and The Invaders Evoke the Spirit of 95

By Evan Rytlewski
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Rancid was modern-rock radio’s gateway in the mid-’90s from punk revival to ska, and it sometimes feels like they’re punished for that. While their contemporaries Green Day re-emerged as the improbable voice of the next generation, Rancid saw their agreeable old hits slowly purged from alternative radio, even though those singles have aged well—“Roots Radicals,” “Salvation,” “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho,” all of which they played last night, are about as timeless as punk gets, songs that could have been recorded any time over the past 30 years.

There's is the kind of punk that you can grow old playing, and that’s exactly what Rancid is doing. While nihilistic hardcore bands inevitably lose their edge and pop-punk bands grow creepy, Rancid’s traditional roots punk sounds as natural coming from men approaching middle age as it did from skinny twenty-somethings.

Coincidentally, Rancid’s 8 p.m. set last night at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse occurred as another group of ska enthusiasts little changed since 1995 played the neighboring Cascio Groove Garage stage: The Invaders, Milwaukee’s signature ska band. They weren’t anywhere near the phenomenon Rancid was, but in the local ska scene they were no less important, a fixture before, during and after third-wave ska’s commercial explosion. The Invaders aren’t trying to rewrite the book—they still sing almost exclusively of ska music, dancing to ska music, and chasing girls who listen to ska music—but their brassy hooks and sprightly, smartly arranged tunes make a strong case for ska’s unpretentious, escapist charm. They sounded as sharp as ever, and after all these years they were still drawing unacquainted listeners toward the stage, happy as ever to make the case for the music they love to potential converts.

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