2 Skinnee J's were not a great band, or even a particularly good one. At best, they were a third-rate Beastie Boys and a relic of a time when Sony Records would drop a few grand on some Beastie-lites. In faint praise, they were better than most of the millionaire rap-rock mooks that Sony was counting on capitalizing on in 1998, with a spunky new wave influence creeping into their music. They were also probably pioneers of today's nerdcore, if you think that's a good thing. But at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles this week, I was reminded of the J's and their charm.
An exhibit at Griffith displaying
awesome dioramas of the planets has been updated, logically, to throw
Pluto into the "...and more" section, reflecting the 2006 vote that took away its planethood
for, more or less, being too small. "Dwarf planet" was the ignominious
new classification. Factually, the scientists were probably on to
something, but emotionally they were all off base, as the J's argued in
Of course it would
be 2 Skinnee J's sticking up for the underdog planet, and certainly no
one as popular as Jay-Z or Green Day. The J's knew what it was like to
be left out. On the Capricorn three-song sampler where I first heard
them, they were relegated to last band status, after 311 and Jimmie's
Chicken Shack. The only time I saw the J's perform, they were playing in a college pub, with about five people listening while other students
chattered, ate and bustled out. Even the fan who uploaded the lyric
video I'm using here didn't have the decency to properly track the
audio, or to at least get the lyrics right ("Judas of a Chariot" instead
of "Judas of Iscariot?" Gevalt.)
As with Pluto, most
experts would probably say that 2 Skinnee J's didn't deserve the respect
that they didn't get. The beat is catchy if unremarkable, and the J's
can't even rhyme that well, but damnit, they're going to give it their
best shot. They'll enlist E.T., 2001: A Space Odyssey, Snoopy fighting the Red Baron, Interplanet Janet (from Schoolhouse Rock!) and even the tired old Uranus pun to make their case. The best
chorus that they can come up with is "Pluto is a planet!" It sounds
better than anything I've heard from the International Astronomical
Pluto was a perfect ally for the J's, who also
wrote a song honoring the Brooklyn 718 area code over Manhattan's 212.
I'm inclined to believe that the J's are Mets fans, if they follow
baseball. Standing back and looking at "Pluto," it's easy to think of
the J's as underloved misfits sticking up for another underloved misfit.
But on this song, they were more than that.
In his New York Times essay in defense of "our picked-on ninth planet," Tim Kreider
expressed the empathy that it would take to justify not kicking Pluto
out of of our Solar System's Exclusive Planet Club. "It would be like
that moment when the doorman is about to escort you out of a private
party where you don’t, arguably, belong, but then someone who knows you
taps him on the shoulder and says, 'Wait a minute, I know this guy. He’s
On "Pluto," that friend was 2 Skinnee J's.
It was a noble stance, Uranus jokes and all, even if it only sold a
fraction as much as 311's terrible song about Jupiter.