June 11, 2018 The Mighty Mighty BossToneS – While We’re At It (Album Review)
Fenway Park and the Red Sox. The Celtics. A marathon. Some tea party in 1773. The Mighty Mighty BossToneS. Boston is home to its fair share of institutions, and no stranger to Ska Punk mayhem. Fortunately for everyone needing an excuse to raise a glass or order a pint, the long-awaited While We’re At It arrives Friday, June 15, 2018, thanks to Big Rig Records.
You do not dare name your group The Mighty Mighty BosstoneS (or, informally, The BossToneS) and not hail from Beantown, no. The group formed here in 1983 and have been crafting some killer Ska Punk ever since. The nonet’s 1989 debut album, Devil’s Night Out, kicked off a party that has been running for nearly three decades and eight additional albums, ranging from 1992’s More Noise and Other Disturbances to 1997’s Let’s Face It – which contained the hit-single “The Impression That I Get” – to 2011’s The Magic of Youth. Sure, there were lineup changes, along with a slot opening for fellow Bostonians Aerosmith, hosting an episode of MTV’s 120 Minutes, performances at Lollapalooza (and Elmopalooza) and recurrent trips to the Vans Warped Tour, and, of course, parties, including the band’s annual Hometown Throwdown music festival in, no surprise here, Boston. Hell, December 28th is Mighty Mighty BossToneS Day in Beantown. How Punk Rock is that?
Now, it has been seven long years since The Mighty Mighty BossToneS – Vocalist Dicky Barrett, Guitarist Lawrence Katz, Bassist Joe Gittleman, Drummer Joe Sirois, Keyboardist John Goetchius, Saxophonist Leon Silva, Tenor Saxophonist Tim Burton, Trombonist Chris Rhodes, and Percussionist/Dancer Ben Carr – have put music to plastic. With While We’re At It, the 9-piece group (or nonet) return to cement their title as the best dressed band and continue their work as progenitors of the brass-infused, high-energy Ska and Hardcore Punk (Ska-core) sound. The 14-track collection sees the band casting an analytical eye on the world around us, but ignoring party lines and going instead for generalized commentary aimed at making the world a better place, one brass-led twist at a time.
While We’re At It begins with the upbeat Ska dance-a-thon of “Green Bay, Wisconsin,” which never sounds like cheese but instead tells the tale of one Skankin’ (the dance, people!), Vespa-riding gal. Horns introduce “The Constant,” the tic-toc of the clock of life, while the race is the human one in “Wonderful Day for the Race,” a driving celebration of being alive, fraught with peace, love, and good feels galore.
The BossToneS take it a step down for the measured-pace of “Unified,” a hope for some understanding and compassion, unity in a world that is sorely divided. The end result is a song that seeks to bring people together, and yet never feels preachy, never draws party-lines nor swims too far into sociopolitical commentary. The opposite side of the coin here is “Divide,” a glance toward the criticism and unpredictability that can drive a wedge between us. But, as they emphasize, “it’s only a song,” a short little ditty, at that.
“Closer to Nowhere” sets a perfect Skanking pace before the band dip their toes into the island sands of “Walked Like a Ghost,” the tale of a man who lost all he believed in, along with his life, and ultimately a lament on the times when the world was a much better place. The band truly shines here, displaying their cohesive and stellar musicianship that bolsters their oft lyrical storytelling. Back to the upbeat dancing pace, “The West Ends” questions why anyone would want to gentrify the West End when it’s already the best end and shaking their fists mightily, they demand to be left alone. Damn you, urban renewal!
Some groovy bass work weaves throughout the core of “Here We Are,” a look around, a ponderance as to how we got here. Before it is too late, something has to change, and this sociopolitical eye-opener sets those realizations to a dangerously catchy, hip-shaking beat. Meanwhile, our fame-chasing consumerist world is a dog-eat-dog hypocrisy, and “The Mad Dash” expresses a gently catchy sway full of shame for our contributions to this endless, abysmal rat race of stagnant humanity.
Always, it is important to admit when you are not in the right, and if you can do it with horns and a hip-swaying melody, kudos to you! “Absolutely Wrong” confesses that we can not all be correct, and for this, the truth is forever elusive; consensus would be the ideal, so, you know, to progress our current state of affairs, you might have to learn to admit when you are in the wrong. Then, “In Honor Of” appreciates and tosses out some backhanded love, just because. Next, they explore the idea that there are wolves everywhere, radicals and refugees looking to control you are at the heart of the cautionary tale of “Hugo’s Wife,” proof that you can overcome these travails and save yourself.
Ultimately, they lean a little more toward a sassy, jazzy lounge act on the first portion of “After the Music Is Over,” a fiercely stripped-down album closer that conjures flappers working the stages of smoky city dens. Though, with time, the song builds back into your standard BossTones’ fare, waving a theatrical goodbye to listeners as the album comes to its triumphant conclusion. Fourteen tracks to quench your seven year itch!
On While We’re At It, The Mighty Mighty BossToneS open their eyes to the curiously damaged world around them. Sure, they dance and smile, shake and shimmy, but they also point an aware finger at the shifty goings-on of 2018. The result is a collection that sounds like a Skanking good time, and yet has a deeper level of storytelling and conscious commentary. A perfect blend that will open some eyes while inspiring others to be better and be brighter. Sometimes, the best curative is a good dance party, you know? This band is clearly an institution for a reason and very happy to throw it down with the best dressed boys in Boston. CrypticRock give The Mighty Mighty BossToneS’ While We’re At It 4 of 5 stars.