The Spitvalves – Movin On

The Spitvalves
Movin On

Third-wave ska is a very curious thing. It exploded in the underground, and nearly everyone who was in their early-to-mid teens had a Less Than Jake album. All your friends were starting third-wave ska bands and learning to skank. Ska was a bleep on the mainstream radar circa 1997 with breakthroughs from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, and Goldfinger. MTV even had “Skaturdays” where kids would skank it up at the MTV Beach House. Then, all of a sudden, ska wasn’t just not cool anymore; being a ska kid was the equivalent of being the kid with a rattail in high school. Thankfully, we all came to the realization that third-wave ska is a horrible form of music. Sure, Reel Big Fish or Less Than Jake are good for putting the windows down (but not playing it too loud) and cruising around during the summer once in a while; but its not something you’d ever claim to do anymore, especially if you write for an online indie rock zine.
I caught the Spitvalves about a year-and-a-half ago when they played here with Pulley and the Voodoo Glow Skulls. My friend, who used to be a big ska kid (had a jacket with an Asian Man patch and all), knew the Spitvalves and was pretty excited to see them in a novel sort of way. Anyway, that was my first and last contact with this band until when their new album showed up in my mailbox. Listening to this record, I realize that I haven’t missed much in the ska world since dropping the habit back in high school.
The ska of the Spitvalves is very much along the lines of Catch 22, with swelling, sweet horn parts and just plain fun music. But where Catch 22’s horn sound is full and jam packed with life, the Spitvalves’ brass just sort of sputters around, never really making much of an impact on me. The singer’s delivery is raspy, has some tough guy posturing, and wouldn’t be out of place in a straight-up punk band. Still, I don’t think he fits the band’s poppier instrumental sound. There is also some needless screaming. One positive that filters through in the Spitvalves sound is their Floridian sense of melody. I think these guys are from Orlando, yet most Florida bands of the punk variety have a very distinctive sound (aka “that Gainesville sound”), and some of that filters through into the Spitvalves’ ska attack. Its worth noting that this record was produced by Sal Villanueva (Thursday, Taking Back Sunday), who gives this record a very glossy sheen, but where Thursday and Taking Back Sunday have a very dramatic sense to their music, I don’t think Mr. Villanueva’s talents translate well to a ska record.
When I put this in to review, I wasn’t too happy about it. As a general rule, I totally abhor third-wave ska. But it wasn’t a hard listen, actually; it was fairly pleasant and non-abrasive to have on in the background as I chatted on AIM. But good music this is not. Just like most ska of this ilk, it suffers from a tired formula that is just cheezy and lacking in elements that make good music like song structure, lyrical content, and originality. I don’t mind this once, but its not something I would listen to on my own. But if you’re a die-hard ska kid, this would be a worthy addition to your collection.