Thursday, September 10, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: Me, Mom, and Morgentaler "Racist Friend"; Various Artists "Ska Against Racism"

The cover features an illustration of both white and black hands with their pointer fingers extended.(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

If racism means both racist action and inaction in the face of racism, then antiracism means active participation in combating racism in all forms. -- Ibram X. Kendi, Founding Director, Antiracist Research and Policy Center, American University

  • The great late '80s/early '90s Montreal-based ska band Me, Mom, and Morgentaler has virtually reformed to record and release a benefit single featuring The Special AKA's iconic and uncompromisingly anti-racist track "Racist Friend" (Digital, self-released, 2020; "Racist Friend 2020 Dubmatix Dub" is the B-side), with all proceeds donated to À deux mains/Head and Hands (a long-standing social service organization serving marginalized youth in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighborhood of Montreal). According to the band's liner notes, Me, Mom, and Morgentaler first started performing this track back in the late '80s in response to neo-nazi boneheads who would sometimes crash their shows. Titled "Racist Friend 2020," this terrific version has more of a groove to it than The Special AKA's original, and sports a pointed and powerful rap that speaks to our times: "Look, I know the playbook/The racism ain't a bug, it's a feature/It's time to unlearn what they didn't teach ya...My people are more than collateral damages/Of red lines, hate crimes, Can I speak to the manager?/We got it on camera, but still some deny it/It's time to speak up, they stay quiet/You can't stand by it and expect that I will be your friend/It's time to bring this to an end."  
    The cover illustration features a trumpet and bullhorn positioned in the shape of an X.
  • While the Mike Park-organized 1998 Ska Against Racism tour was extremely well-intentioned--and did raise $23k for Anti-Racism Action and the National Council of Churches' Burned Churches Fund--its execution and effectiveness were decidedly mixed, as this long Chicago Reader feature makes painfully clear. Over 20 years later, with an overt bigot in the White House enacting racist policies and egging on emboldened white supremacist hate groups, and the pernicious effects of systemic racism on Americans of color still unresolved, Bad Time Records, Asian Man Records, and Ska Punk Daily have put together the new 28-track compilation Ska Against Racism (Double vinyl LP/digital, Bad Time Records 2020) in responsewith all proceeds going to The Movement for Black Lives, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Conscious Kid, The Alpha Institute, and Black Girls Code. While this compilation of new, unreleased, and rare cuts leans heavily toward melodic ska-punk (with really catchy tracks from Mustard Plug, The Interrupters, Bite Me Bambi, JER, Buck-O-Nine, Left Alone, Omnigone, Kill Lincoln--with "David Duke Is Running for President," which actually happened in 1988--and others), there are tracks from several notable traditional and modern ska acts in the mix. Some of the many highlights on Ska Against Racism include the 2013 Operation Ivy reunion of sorts found on Tim Timebomb featuring Jesse Michaels' "Living in a Dangerous Land," The Chinkees' "Run for Help," The Planet Smashers' "The Pledge" (to fight hate), The Doped Up Dollies' cover of The Special AKA's "Racist Friend" (great harmonizing here), Hepcat's "Nigel (Quarantine Version)" (a revisit of their 1990 debut single, an ambivalent ode to the JA rude boy rebel life), Westbound Train's "Wash Over Me," The Skints' "Restless (Heavy Dub Mix)" (which is about the effects of institutional racism with references to police killings of unarmed black people and the horrific Grenfell Tower fire), Catbite's "Asinine Aesthetic" (which sounds like X meets 2 Tone), The Suicide Machines with Gangster Fun's singer John Bunkley's "City Limitations" (about how racism helped fuel the decline of Detroit), and The Porkers' "The Good Egg" (which refers to a real-life incident where an Aussie teen cracked an egg on the head of an anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim senator). While I'm not a big fan of ska punk, I really enjoyed this comp--the quality control is high and all bands bring their A game. Everyone involved in Ska Against Racism put their time, effort, and money where their mouths are. If you consider yourself to be anti-racist, you should, too.
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