14. Reel Big Fish
Zany, wacky, ska-rooted (though they rock harder now) Reel Big Fish
elevate self-deprecation to an art form, thanks to a malcontent lead singer in Aaron Barrett,
who beats you to the punch with peppy lyrics like "I'll never be anything, anything at all." He lays down these anti-What Color is Your Parachute?
salvos over bright horns and zippy uptempo rhythms, which just add to the dark humor of it all. But if Barrett's insecurities are a grease fire, then fame--or the prospect of--is the water that spreads that shit around. More than two decades into their career, the band is regarded are more than just a popular band with horns, they're a touchstone of the hodgepodge of alt-rock culture specific to OC-- loud, sunny, sarcastic and ever-changing.
13. RX Bandits
By the time they took an official hiatus in 2011, the RX Bandits
were almost unrecognizable to the average fan who lapped up their quirky, horn-happy ska-punk in the mid '90s. Tracing a stylistic evolution that dates back to their 2001 effort Progress,
you can hear a more sophisticated ployrhythmic version of the band (formerly the Pharmaceutical Bandits
) taking shape with several line-up changes and a decade of experience behind them. Over several more albums, the sun-baked soul of vocalist/guitarist Matt Embree
aligned more with Sam Cooke
and Nina Simone
than it did with No Doubt
or Reel Big Fish
. Though the eventual departure of sax player Steve Borth
and trombonist Chris Sheets
was a major hit to the band, it also pushed them to finally, once and for all drive a nail into the coffin of their ska band label. Musically, guitarist Steve Choi
, bassist Joe Troy
and drummer Chris Tsagakis
rocketed off to an entirely different proggy planet, where reggae, salsa and cerebral punk riffs intertwined to create an identity that was as effectively reinvented and re-invigorating as any band could hope for. Reemerging this year with a handful of shows in Brazil
, were hopeful that one day the bandits will ride again on a full-time basis.
12. Cold War Kids
A lot of the praise (and blame) for the current state of indie rock can be traced back to bands like the Cold War Kids
. In effect, the explosion of the Fullerton
-bred quartet (who wound up leaving us for Long Beach
) was a bi-product of what we'll call the Garden State era
of indie rock--bands ushered in by a Zack Braff
film that, for one reason or another, basically helped kickstart our modern love affair with all things folky, depressing and old-sounding (face it folks, without bands like these, Instagram
wouldn't exist). Watching them develop in tiny concert dens like Plush Cafe
(R.I.P.), even we couldn't have predicted how big they'd get on the heels of their 2006 debut Robbers and Cowards
. We guarantee you that even half a decade and two albums later, there is a generation of hipster bands who still hold that songs like "Hospital Beds" and "We Used to Vacation" close to their flannel-covered hearts.