Various Artists

American Skathic, Vol. 2: More Ska From America's Breadbasket

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The second installment in the American Skathic compilation series improves noticeably on the first. Some of the bands are repeat customers -- Blue Meanies, Skapone, the Parka Kings, and the Skolars are all back again -- and they've obviously honed their craft in the two years since the first American Skathic. The Pacers' deeply Fishbone-esque "Brand New Day" is a huge improvement over their previous contribution, and Blue Meanies are even tighter and more obnoxious than usual on "It Doesn't Matter." But the newcomers also sound more seasoned: one of the album's highlights is "Darlin'" by the Jinkies (from Ham Lake, Minnesota), whose sweet-voiced girl singer and big fat horn section both border on perfection; Highball Holiday's "Skinhead Girls" is a jazzy reggae treat. The overall (no pun intended) production quality has improved, too. Recommended.

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