I was thinking about this today and felt a pang of old age when I realized it was ten years in the past. Then I went home, checked the CD and realized it had actually been 12 years, not ten, and felt even older.
So awesome it doesn't even matter that they're ska. So awesome that you can even overlook the blatant LDS references in the lyrics ("Pioneers and patriarchs / Patriots and matriarchs / Staking out the promised land"). Back in the days when you had M2 playing music videos 24 hours a day - and weird ones, too. Of course, I am old enough to have liked M2 because it was a reminder of how cool MTV had been in its earlier years. (I know people have been complaining about MTV not playing music videos since about 1985, but damn, they don't even play the late night insomniacs block anymore!) You kids today - with your YouTubes and iTunes - don't realize just how great it was to live in a world where you couldn't just pick whatever you wanted to see and hear at the moment you felt the urge. There was still some romance in hearing a song you hadn't heard before on the radio and painstakingly tracking it down later. Catching the tail end of a gnarly music video and then flipping back to the station compulsively for two weeks in the hopes of catching the thing from the beginning. Seeing a fleeting mention of some weird band or obscure album in SPIN or Rollling Stone and then waiting months before you could actually find a copy of said obscurity in an out-of-town record store and then take the blind plunge, popping $16.99 on the counter for something you had never heard before and had only a fleeting fantasy of an idea of what it sounded like - half the time you'd end up with unlistenable garbage, the other half you'd stumble upon something that would change your life, maaaan.
During the recording of Remain in Light, the Talking Heads came across a magazine review of a then-obscure late 70s British punk group and were utterly fascinated by the description of the music. They decided to record a song that represented what they thought the band might sound like.
... David's contributions to this song were said to be influenced by things he had read about a British group called Joy Division. He had never actually heard their albums, but he had read about them. ...*The result was "The Overload", which probably sounds closer to Magazine but still pretty far out for either Joy Division or the Talking Heads.
We don't live in a world where such a thing could happen today. Within 30 seconds of reading about any new artist, I can log onto YouTube and Wikipedia and know everything about them and their sound, watch the videos and bootleg concert footage, read the Pitchfork critical blowjob and the subsequent Pitchfork backlash, and then realize the band have had their entire career arc on my computer screen in about the time it took me to type this post.
In other news: Hey you kids, stay off my lawn.