joy of ska = joy of Jesus?

Motor City Ska (Gumshoe Records)
The Insyderz

By Robert Gruber

With the success of bands like No Doubt, Sublime, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, ska (and ska-influenced) music is back, and bigger than ever. This strange amalgam of sped-up reggae, powered by rock guitar and tempered with cool jazz horns, is upbeat party music, impossible not to dance or move to in some fashion (a la the classic Madness video, "One Step Beyond").

Given the inherent joyfulness of ska, it's a natural for the message of hope to be found in Christ Jesus. Sure enough, bands like The Supertones, Five Iron Frenzy and Detroit's The Insyderz are finding huge audiences, both in and out of the church. The Insyderz's sound is a little more . . . authentic (for lack of a better word) than most new ska acts, because they don't rely so much on the heavy punk guitars (what's known as "ska-core"). Instead, they work from the beat, incorporating extra percussion that sounds at times Latin, and drives the dance factor through the roof. Vocalist Joe Yerke throws in as much hip-hop rhyming as he does actual singing, giving the Insyderz even more of a rhythmic edge on cuts like "Carnival" and "I Say."

Lyrically, they mostly address Jesus Christ as the solution to problems like gang violence, drug abuse, depression and uncertainty. In "Trigger Happy," the message is sobering and poignant: "Any punk can point and pull the trigger/But it takes a real man to bite your lip and take a walk away is a loss of pride/But at least you're still alive." "Weebles" evokes images of little egg-shaped, bottom-heavy toys from the '70s to say, "We're like Weebles, but we won't stay down/I once was lost but now am found." The song "Sacrifice" is about as heavy as it gets, but it's heavy indeed, relating the awful price Jesus paid for you and for me.