Insert Coin is the debut EP from KW’s Arcade Allstars. They make uplifting, ska-punk reminiscent of bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Complete with tenor sax, trombone and keys, the six-piece delivers catchy tunes with deep meanings.  

This record appeals to early 2000’s nostalgia. With an emphasis on musicianship, the band executes a playful introductory effort for fans of this genre. 

The record begins with “Bitter,” which wastes no time before encapsulating the very essence of ska-punk. Trombone and saxophone blast over a wave of up-beat chords as a pop-sensible structure reveals itself. Bright guitars and tight drums hold down an expressive tune as melodies unfold.  

The lyrics “If I sober up, I’ll get bitter,” sets a serious tone against the backdrop of otherwise happy- sounding music. The juxtaposition between theme and music seems to imply that even though things aren’t going very well in life, we put on a happy face to hide our problems. The last words are, “I feel fine,” expressing disdain with irony at the forefront of intentions.  

“They Don’t Teach That in School” opens with a country-western intro. Chugging drums and twinkling pianos accompany the track into an unlikely direction as it explodes into a horn-heavy second life. This track emphasizes the band’s connection with each other as musicians, bending between genres with ease and comfort. Vocal harmonies and a tight horn section thicken the track with substance and unpredictability.  

“Diggin’ A Hole” kicks off with reverberated sax over stabbing guitars, teetering into reggae-dub territory while peppering the song structure with a definitively ska-punk chorus. As vocal duties are exchanged, depth and variety shine through this mid-paced ode to mistakes and broken promises. “I keep diggin’ a hole, that’s where I’m gonna stay,” is sung before an organ plays the band off. 

Arcade Allstars offer fans of ska-punk a nostalgia- packed record that serves as a contender in the genre. As the pop-punk resurgence battles on, few bands come forth with sincerity and musicality. Where one lacks, the other prevails. With this record, however, a balance between the two is demonstrated unequivocally. That being said,; iIf you pause Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and switch the disc with Insert Coin, you can listen to this record while clearing a million points in The Hangar. Easy. 

FFO: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fishbone, Less Than Jake