After the 2005 Warped Tour, Boston’s Big D and the Kids Table were ready to record an album of “chilled out, tripped out” dub songs, as frontman David McWane describes them. But before they went into the studio they were contacted by SideOneDummy Records, who were drawn to the band’s uncommon combination of strict DIY work ethic (hundreds of fliers and stickers plastered everywhere at each show on the tour) and debauchery (their infamous series of “Little Bitch” beer-chugging videos became a huge hit amongst bands and crew members), not to mention their dynamic take on ska music and the fervent cult following they had amassed over a decade-long career. “SideOne called us up and said, ‘You need to do a ska record. You need to do the record that ska needs,’ ” explains McWane. “So we decided to do it, and it’s awesome.”
Big D came together ten years ago when the members converged at college in Boston. Thanks to the insane live show they put together, the band built up a huge local following almost immediately, packing clubs, halls, dorms, basements — you name it — all over New England. They formed their own label, Fork in Hand Records, to put out their first album, Shot By Lammi, in 1997, and before long they were releasing albums by a stable of popular Boston-area bands, building a vibrant punk/ska scene around themselves.
That DIY m.o. governs just about everything Big D have done, from engineering, producing, and releasing their own albums, which they did for the majority of their career, making their own videos, putting together their own DVD, or spreading the Big D and the Kids Table gospel by playing an average of 200 shows a year. Now, having teamed up with SideOneDummy, the band is ready to take things up a notch and lead ska’s next big resurgence. Their fourth full-length and SideOneDummy debut, Strictly Rude, which was produced by Mighty Mighty BossTones bassist and fellow Bostonian Joe Gittleman, is the product of a focused and hardworking band confident in their ability to do just that. Airtight and bird-flu infectious, the songs are the result of a solid year of writing and practicing for hours each day that they weren’t on the road. Members quit their jobs and couch surfed in order to put everything they had into their music.
Musically and lyrically, Strictly Rude is the band’s most mature work to date. The sounds of a piano, organ, and melodica rub up against the familiar horns and guitars. And although some of McWane’s youthful, fun-loving lyrical stylings remain — take the rambunctious party tune “Noise Complaint,” for example — he also deals with much more serious themes like political call-to-action (“Try Out Your Voice,”) alcoholism (“Breaking the Bottle,”) and tolerance (Hell On Earth).
From the catchy, dancy album opener “Steady Riot,” a song reminiscent of …And Out Come the Wolves-era Rancid, to the ominous minor-key creepiness of “Snakebite” to the slower, sunny “Shining On,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lily Allen record, you get the idea that this just might be the record that ska needs — an album that’s as sophisticated as it is pleasing, as adventurous and experimental as it is fun. Most importantly, it’s a deeply candid effort that was shaped by an incalculable amount of effort, energy, thought, and love. “We’re talking about the normal life of a musician and his surroundings and the great artists around him that might not have the opportunity to get out,” says McWane. “It’s a very honest record.”