First wave, Second Wave, Two-Tone, then whatever the hell the Aquabats were doing (despite how glorious it may be), and Third Wave, Ska as most know it existed in a seemingly “blip-on-the-radar” moment in the 90s but left a lasting impression the world over. From roots in Jamaica to the UK to the West Coast of The United States “wave” is an apt moniker for the all-consuming momentum it carried. Yet through it all, something strange was happening in Middle America.
Nebraska is flat in topography, yet anything but in sound. Home, in part or whole, to the styles of The Chevrons, Bright Eyes, Blue October, Rilo Kiley, and who could forget 311?
In 1997 Lincoln, Nebraska gave life to 8th Wave. Pop-Punk by description, Ska by composition, 8th Wave would release their first full length The Truth Hurts in 2001, at the, seemingly, end of the third wave Ska movement.
Perhaps posthumous (in retrospect) to a disappearing style, 8th Wave’s presence exploded with distorted guitar abound, heavy snare at the forefront, and the all-too-addicting brass section. Kris “Dirty Money” Allison’s vocals embody the f**k-all sentiment of the time and drive a narrative skanking along the stage built on the hands of fellow wave-ites (-ians? -ers?) Josh Rumbaugh (bass), Owen Killham (guitar), Ryan “Emmy” Emswiler (drums), Jim “Jimbo” Barber (trombone), and Steve Ahl (trumpet). With just the second track 8th Wave postured themselves in “Crush-A-Lot” and immediately sink the hooks of all-that-is-great-ska-punk into you without release. The Truth Hurts refused to let go from that point forward. “White Trash Girl” will have you singing “PBR” long after it’s gone, the swell of “You’re Invited” lends a proper late-90s swagger, and “Imaginary Valentine” deceptively plays the hand at pace (for what one could call a slower track).
Sharp horns, proper punk vocals, wall-of-sound rhythm section ricocheting aggressive downstroke guitar is the starter kit to a ska-punk sound. 8th Wave took this kit, ripped off the label, threw on an Op Ivy sticker, dyed their hair bright colors where it wasn’t bleached blonde, buttoned up the baggiest jeans they could find and delivered The Truth Hurts, an album that would set course for the dark recesses of “oh yeah, I remember that time”; but not of their own doing. 8th Wave was victim to an oversaturated market pitching to an audience that was too focused on getting a mortgage and naming their kids things like Pilot and Apple.
With a few EP releases, Take Your Pick and Store Bought Punks, we can find comfort in knowing there’s more of 8th Wave out there. But the, likely, unintentionally on-point titled The Truth Hurts came at a time when the world was moving on. Thankfully, we can go back dust if off and either recall or discover what makes 8th Wave a fundamentally solid wave to a sound you just can’t resist.