Unless you’re the prom queen or the captain of the football team, high school is generally filled with way more embarrassing moments than it is triumphant ones. Hell, even my triumphs — winning a couple debate conferences, being elected to the school senate — are pretty embarrassing. It’s fitting, then, that this playlist of 3rd wave ska and loser punk served as my soundtrack for those years.
I got into ska for the same reason you get into all kinds of stupid crap in high school: because of a girl. I’d had a crush on her since freshman year, and when she started singing lead vocals for our high school’s ska band, I gleefully hopped on the bandwagon. My first real show, i.e. not Starship at the county fair, was a ska show: The Goodwin Club (my crush’s band), Nuckle Brothers, Skankin Pickle, Voodoo Glow Skulls. I stage dove for the first time at that show, which resulted in my pair of thrift-store-purchased corduroy pants being ripped from crotch to cuff. Because this was a ska show, however, there was an abundance of safety pins holding various patches to various kids’ backpacks, and a very kind random girl helped me pin my pants back together. In hindsight, I probably should have asked her out instead. Oh well.
Not surprisingly, I was far from alone in obsessing over my crush. Half the guys in the ska scene wanted to date her and/or write a song about her. There are two such songs on this mix, “Martian Girl” by The Aquabats and “I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend” by Reel Big Fish, both written specifically about the girl in question. Said girl’s band played shows with many of the bands included here. I saw them open for No Doubt, Sublime, and Dance Hall Crashers (all favorites of mine), and I have vivid memories of driving around in the passenger seat of my crush object’s Jeep — her parents spoiled her rotten — listening to tapes by Propoghandi, The Descendents, The Skatalites, etc.
Indeed, we became close friends, a situation that delighted her (who doesn’t want an obsequious fanboy at their beck and call), but destroyed me. I’ll spare you the details, which quickly reach Lifetime-movie levels of maudlin and depressing. Suffice it to say: I made it out alive. Once we got to college, my friends, my crush, and I all bailed on ska, swapping it out for various strains of trip-hop, indie rock, and, uh, jungle. There are plenty of songs from those genres that are near and dear to my heart, but nothing brings the memories back quite like a silly horn line and some offbeat guitar chords. I mean, listen to Skankin Pickle’s “I Missed the Bus.” That song is completely stupid and totally embarrassing, and I love it.