On June 7, the long-standing Montreal ska-punk record label Stomp Records released the fifth volume of its flagship ska compilations, the All Skanadian Club vol. 5. It had been eight years since All Skanadian vol. 4 was released, prompting many fans to wonder what was happening with this series. Indeed Stomp Records has changed quite a bit as a record label since they released the All Skanadian Club vol. 1 way back in 1995.
Back then, the label was run out of the Planet Smasher’s lead singer Matt Collyer’s parents garage in a Montreal suburb. The label was modest, but it definitely kick-started the Canadian ska scene, which was already picking up with bands like the Smashers and the Kingpins, and brought lots of global attention to ska from north of the 49th parallel. Today, Stomp boasts a roster full of some of the world’s most successful ska, reggae, and punk bands, and works out of an office right in the heart of Montreal’s entertainment district.
In the years since the release of that first compilation, ska in Canada (and in North America in general) changed quite significantly. There was the famous “death of ska” around the year 2000, with Moon Ska USA going under, and many bands breaking up. In fact, Stomp was also known as Moon Ska Canada, as the label distributed Moon Ska USA’s releases in Canada, and vice versa. Stomp records survived the so-called ska crash (changing their focus to include more punk and psychobilly groups on the label), but many of their bands did not.
The changeover in the Canadian ska scene is very apparent on the All Skanadian vol. 5 tracklisting. Only 2 of the bands on the compilation, The Planet Smashers and Skavenjah, have been around since vol. 1 was released. And many of the other bands are quite young. Still, the energy and the unity that were felt with the first compilation are still there, and what comes out is a new generation of ska enthusiasts.
For All Skanadian vol. 5, Stomp records teamed up with the Montreal Ska Festival and the Victoria Ska Festival as a way to mutually support all these projects, and also to tap into different ska scenes across this vast country. Soon after putting out a call for submissions, they got over 50 tracks from different bands. The 22 tracks that were eventually selected for the final cut are a nice representation of the different styles of ska being played in Canada.
Musically speaking, the influence in recent years of skinhead reggae bands like the Aggrolites rings aloud on the compilation. Bands like The Fundamentals and the Beatdown from Montreal, or The Harmonauts from Toronto exemplify that stripped-down, organ driven ska/reggae on their tracks on this cd. There is also some ska-punk from stalwarts such as Subb, Los Furios, and the Afterbeat. And finally, one nice thing is that some of the veterans of the Canadian ska scene haven’t changed their sound or their style one bit, serving up tracks that have kept the dancefloors in the north moving since the 90′s. New tracks from The Planet Smashers and The Scarlet Union (a project of Greg Crowe, who used to play in Whole Lotta Milka from Winnipeg) are just straight up fun ska numbers.
On a critical side, the compilation claims to represent ska bands from nearly every province in Canada, yet it’s really only bands from the major urban centres like Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver that you’ll find here. It’s unfortunate that talented ska bands from more remote parts of the country were left off, such as The Idlers from Newfoundland. I can’t say that every track is a hit on the album, but there is definitely some fun stuff among the 22 tracks. Also, the artwork on the album is wonderful, and the cover models are some of the same rowdy Montreal skinheads that have been gracing the covers of the compilations since the beginning!
All in all, it’s nice to see that Stomp records is putting their focus back on ska music this year. They’ve recently put out stuff from The Aggrolites, The Beatdown, Rude City Riot, The Resignators, and will soon be releasing new records from The Planet Smashers (drops on July 15) and Open Season from Switzerland.
The All Skandian Club vol. 5 is available for cheap through iTunes ($5.99 for 22 songs!), or in physical form through the Stomp website at www.stomprecords.com. So head over to those sites, support our ska scene, and get your hands on a piece of Canadian ska history.
And here are some videos of bands that have songs on the comp!