Imitation is most definitely the sincerest form of flattery. For a perfect example, look no further than local ska group The 2 Tone Lizard Kings. The eight-member outfit, which has been a regular at joints like Alice Cooper'stown, covers a slew of ska classics in its raucous repertoire, including throwbacks from the genre's Second Wave of the late '70s and early '80s, as well as the Third Wave ska-punk blends from the '90s.
These horn-blowing hipsters have been described as "a keg party with horns," indicating their goofy, feel-good approach to performing gigs, which places them closer to the latter era of ska, which seemed to be more about energy than the issue-oriented Second Wave.
But are their rollicking reproductions worthy reinventions, or half-assed imitations? Sure, you can get the notes right, but can you do them any justice?
Song: "Nite Klub"
Original artist: The Specials (1979)
There are some things in life you gotta be sure about. If you're skydiving, bring a parachute. If you're banging a skeevy chick, wear a rubber. And if you're aping The Specials, you gotta be damn good at it. There've been mixed results, ranging from the great (Stiff Little Fingers' version of "Doesn't Make It Alright") to the awful (Citizen King's bizarre rendition of "Gangsters"). Luckily, 2TLK's version falls into the first category, with a faster-paced take on the song about the humorous life of a nightclubgoer. Although they lose points for replacing lyrics, it's all good, especially since we're certain the frat-like members of 2TLK have been in a few places where "All the girls are sluts/And the beer tastes just like piss." Grade: B-
Song: "Skankin' by the Numbers"
Original artist: Mustard Plug (1993)
Third Wave superstars Mustard Plug penned this humorous scat-filled hollaback at pit poseurs who slam-dance at ska shows, causing disruption and injury. While the original feels snarky and ribald, 2TLK's wilder version seems too up-tempo, and its lead singer's style of barking out the lyrics from his gut feels like he's challenging concert thugs to a fight. Maybe the band should've, er . . . played more by the numbers. Grade: D
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Song: "Two Tone Army"
Original artist: The Toasters (1996)
The members of The Toasters must be good at staging out-of-body experiences, since the men of 2TLK are practically channeling the spirits of the NYC ska legends for this song. While one could dub their efforts as either a rip-off or an homage, it somehow works for 2TLK's version, as the band is tight, the horns are golden, and the singing is perfect. Grade: A