The five young men in Skalicious are smart to not take a purist's attitude towards ska. No matter how hard they try, they will never be native Jamaicans and will never quite sound authentic. What they can do, however, is take this island genre and fill it with the melodic exuberance and restless energy of the northern Virginia suburbs. That's just what they do on their immensely enjoyable debut album, "Snacks," which is overflowing with catchy pop hooks and snappy dance beats.
Though ska is the album's dominant flavor, elements of swing, Tex-Mex and rock sneak in here, there and everywhere. Everything is subordinate, however, to the band's love affair with melody. Not only do the chorus vocals grab the ear but so do the verses and horn riffs. This might earn Skalicious the contempt of ska purists, but it should win them the eternal thanks of pop fans.
With the rhythm section pushing these hooks along at a brisk, syncopated pace, lead singer Andrew Gorski captures something essential about suburban adolescence in songs such as "Time," "Shoppin' Liftin' " and "Shoulda Coulda Woulda." It wouldn't be the first time that young musicians borrowed an exotic sound to get the necessary distance to examine their own lives.
Appearing Sunday at Jaxx and Dec. 31 at Lulu's.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Skalicious, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8125. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)