In 2016 some group calling themselves Skankral Ska Hotel released an all ska version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s indie opus In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Interesting concept, terrible execution—deliberately so—with ska being the punchline. But imagine if a band made an all ska version of a classic album, but did it well. This is exactly what Jeff Rosenstock did. And the brilliant album he turned into ska, was his own, the critically acclaimed 2020 release NO DREAM.
He called the album SKA DREAM and presented it potentially as an April Fool’s joke, with absurd ska pun titles and 2 Tone dancing figures pasted on the original NO DREAM album cover. But SKA DREAM was real—a reverse Skankral Ska Hotel, an amazing bittersweet ska album, with clever structural choices and layers of instrumentation, the product of copious guest performances and quarantine style recordings. Everyone involved emanates so much joy, which clashes—in the best way possible—with Rosenstock’s depressing NO DREAM lyrics. And every bit of humor on the record is done with love towards ska, not making fun of the genre.
Jeff Rosenstock is our guest on today’s episode of In Defense of Ska. We spend some time dissecting SKA DREAM. But we also talk about what it’s been like for him to sneak in the back door of hipster indie rock cred, and why credible journalists like to ask him about his 1:30 minute-long ska song “Rainbow.” We also get the full scoop on Jeff’s greatest side project of all time: Shitfinger.