Damn. I keep wanting to make some easy comparisons here, but it’s just not working. Every time I hear something slightly familiar-sounding, I think “hey, that sounds a lot like Bone Simple”, or “ahh, yeah, a Slackers bit, there”, but then realize that I’ve got it all backwards. Along with a small handful of fellow-travelers, Bim Skala Bim are the fathers of American ska—after 17 years and nine albums spent doing this stuff, they’ve influenced almost any ska band worth their braces and checkered ties. More importantly, they’ve always been one of the few ska bands of any era to break from the Bluebeat textbook, incorporating rock, pop, soul, surf-rock, salsa, and even psychedelia into their music (anybody else remember their brilliant cover of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage”, off Bones?) and showing everybody who followed after that it could be done.
So, what does all that historical significance mean to the Average Joe (i.e., you & me)? Not much, but it does give a hint of what’s to come. Krinkle is yet another fine offering from these bonafide ska heroes, worthy of their best past work, in my book, and covering a pretty wide range of stylistic ground. There’s catchy, mid-tempo ska like “Step Up to Me”, soulful rocksteady like “Set It Right”, fast, frantic skankfests like “Long Way” and “Lost in Translation”, and seriously odd stuff like “373”, with its flat, spoken-word-sounding vocals and a nice, smoky sax solo from ex-Morphine saxman Dana Colley, and the upbeat, slightly “off” psychedelic vibe of “Dislexic”. These folks take on all of it and more, and make it sound like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
At the top of the heap is the beautiful almost-ballad “Hardest of the Parts”, right alongside the aptly-titled “Food for Soul”, which gets funkier than most of the rest of this, and the declaration of love “Hey Girl”—all damn fine stuff. Of course, then there’s the fiery UFO hunt of “No Fly Zone”, and the mellow vibe of “Calm Down”, and the calypso-under-the-water “Deep Sea Diver”, and…well, you get the idea. In short, Bim Skala Bim have neatly turned the old-rockers-get-soft stereotype on its head and proved once again that they deserve tribute (if not royalties) from the whole damn ska scene.