The thing I would usually be doing tonight isn't happening for the 2nd year in a row, so…
This could probably use one more round of editing and/or formatting, but fuck it, I'm just lettin' it fly. Some of it came out earlier today while some of it's been sitting for months & months and it takes me so freaking long to do anything that if I stop myself now, it might sit for another year.
Two years ago, December 28 2019 was night two of The MIghty Mighty Bosstones' Hometown Throwdown. A few extra friends joined me, in celebration of my turning 50 earlier that month. Some of them had seen the Bosstones but hadn't in a while or hadn't been to a Throwdown, and some had never seen them live. But they all knew how much it meant to me. I wanted a memorable celebration but didn't quite have the spoons, space, or shit together to host a party. So I invited them to the best time I've ever had. They all had a blast and determined they would very much want to attend future Throwdowns with me.
And here we are, 2nd year in a row without a Throwdown, thanks to COVID-19. Trying hard not to dwell heavily upon it, and taking comfort in the amazing new album the Bosstones released several months ago that is still amazing each and every time I listen to it, and that some of those friends and I did get to see the Bosstones at the Worcester Punk in Drublic back in September.
So today i'm committing to finally finishing my thoughts about the album. I thought I would get it done back in the Summer, when I got to take it to the beach and give it a few listens in the sun and at actual leisure. A few more thoughts did get put down then, but the push to finish got delayed once again by life and its overwhelms. More thoughts came along after Punk in Drublic, where they played a hell of a set that included four of my favorite shiny new songs from WGWG but, well. Same thing. I don't know if it's just what the new brain norm is post-accident, or pandemic adding to already plenty of anxiety & depression, or the new norm post-menopause, or something else, or some combination of 2 or more, but I can't concentrate worth a damn, and almost all of the 'get it done willpower' gets thoroughly used up in doing a decent enough job at the job (which was jobS plural for a while there, because once I got a better job it was harder than expected to hours reduced to a do-able point at the first job). I'm working on it all, the concentration & depression & anxiety, that's all I can say. And I'll nip that line of thought in the bud, lest this post go completely off the rails.
So here we go. The Mighty Mighty BossToneS: When God Was Great (released May 2021).
Front to back, this thing rocks. Or slaps, as I'm told the kids say these days. I don't know if I'm using it exactly as they do. Here I mean it leaves a fresh, stinging, and invigorating sensation across the face of your brain's listening parts. It slaps.
In terms of sounds, lyrics, and perceivable intent, the album is on one hand extremely relevant to current times and then skews nostalgic as fuck on the other.
Some songs hit heavily on the frustrations of the past few years, offering some catharsis, context, and/or camaraderie. In the songs that look back and reminisce, they don't just do so with subjects and stories from a distant past; they're assembled in part from audio lexicons of another age. This band has always mixed and matched sounds from far and wide, and here they've added even more ingredients to their unmatched, not-quite definable signature 'stew.'
Sounds, styles and even bits of riffs from a bygone buffet show up on this music platter and take me back more years than I care to assign a number to. It hints in ways that leave me feeling like I just need one more note to name that distant tune echoed by a cluster of notes, or a fragment of melody, or within a particular guitar sound.
Hey, how's that for getting a little mileage from those arts degrees? :D Is it any wonder it takes me months to get any gods-damned thing done?
Ok, how about some details:
Right out of the gate, it's clearly the Bosstones in their element. Solid, fun, groovin. Bouncy upstroke ska-punk guitar? Check. ✅ Swaggering bass? Check! ✅ Dicky's raspy voice and artful wordsmithing… Check! ✅
The horns sound off 30 seconds in (CHECK!! ✅), and I'm holding my breath, waiting for the hook that makes it worthy of the "first track" spot on the album.
Crunchy guitar skids into the first chorus, and yeah, there it is. The chorus hits like a homerun over the Green Monster and cements Decide as one of my favorites of WGWG.
As the second verse wraps up and heads towards the chorus, Dicky closes it with an intense growl that deserves a moment to process — which the horns deliver by carrying the chorus for a round while the vocals maintain a respectful distance before jumping back in.
It's fucking magic. Songcraft at its best. This track would make a stellar show-opener, with the greatest fucking horn section in the world greeting the audience bright & blaring right at that point.
Aptly named, this song moves. The back & forth call & response of the chorus shines and grooves here.
We’ve gotta move —— That’s true
Do you approve? —— We do
We gotta move out of the city
How ‘bout the groove? —— That’s new
Do you approve? —— We do
It is so good to know that you’re with me
Listen for the wonderful countermelody trumpet meandering above everything through the bridge.
I DON'T BELIEVE IN ANYTHING
I don't know where to begin. All the pieces, all the emphases and embellishments, every little detail of this song, it's put together so brilliantly. The primal drums. The different places the bass goes. The lyrics, FFS. THE LYRICS. I've listened to it over and over, taking turns with which instrument or element I would focus on and follow. I listen to it the way I could stare at an amazing painting for hours, over and over again. I just can't get enough of it.
It's a fucking Ska-Core opera. Is that nuts to say? I don't give a fuck. This is some seriously masterful songcraft here.
This is one of the songs that isn't fighting for the spot of my favorite off the album.
Don't get me wrong. It's amazing. It's extremely unlike the Bosstones sound and yet still very Bosstones and extremely well done. It's one of the songs that left me with a "What year is it? Who am I listening to?" kind of feeling. Pedal steel guitar? The Bosstones don't just mimic and borrow from other musical styles in some half-ass pastiche imitation. They own it and make their particular flavor out of it. That style isn't just stamped on the surface or spread over like frosting.
Maybe I need to let it process for a while longer before I fully get it. It's good. Damned good. But doesn't quite hit the spot of what I need.
Here's probably a good point to note/ remind that I had a bit of a head-start on isolation & extra depression & anxiety for a few years before COVID-19 became a thing, with audio processing & light sensitivity issues & other miscellaneous brain problems from the car accident brain injury, which also hit the brainzone where a lot of emotional regulation and executive function get sorted. I was just starting to work on really getting back to life & the world again when the world closed down. I still need a LOT of UPBEAT. I have only recently been able to start listening to the more maudlin artists in my music collection again, and only occasionally because it's still just too too easy for me to get bummed out and then spiral downwards into much worse than bummed out. The Bosstones have not been among the music I had to set aside – even when a song's about something dark or sad, the music still has a strong, GET MOVING or SING WITH US kind of energy. They top of the list of things that help avoid a complete mood crash or mitigate some of the worst most hopeless days. So I fully admit that I may not yet be in the right head space to fully appreciate Certain Things.
"I hope it all turns out ok."
Holy fucksticks, I love this one. It might be my favorite from WGWG. The theme of bruised but not broken, "black and blue!…" makes for one hell of an anthem for the past several years, on both a personal level and world-wise.
For the record, I'm not sure I'm NOT broken, but I'm not out of scotch tape, glue, and staples yet, so. Pass the paper clips, please, and where are the elastic bands?
This one plays unbidden in the back of my head very very frequently, and perhaps is the one I sing the loudest to when it comes up. One of my favorite bits is the rakish way blaring trombone trades off with brazen guitar through the bridge.
They played it live at the Punk in Drublic festival in Worcester, MA and I very seriously hope it becomes a frequent contender for the playlist when regular concerts resume.
I fell in love at first listen with this song. Absolutely among my favorites. I could follow that extra deep fog-horn-like baritone sax into the ocean and never come back. My full experience of this song was not complete until I finally got to enjoy it at the beach. It's perfect.
THE KILLING OF GEORGIE (PART III)
I've already said a lot about this song, on the heels of some idiocy over on Twitter that eventually resulted in the pulling of the video from YouTube. I'm not going to expand on those issues, but if you want to read it, here's the links to part one and part two. I still have more to say about this long, like…
The fucking piano is on fucking fire in this fucking song. And this fucking song is a fucking raging banger of a fire, y'all. Not a lot of bands can have such energy and intensity come through on a studio album. These guys have always been able to, and still do, to unparalleled results.
The song begins with a morning-show-like sound and asks "what is on your mind?" — To me it comes off like a critique of the superficial sound-bite TV news show style: They might bring up heavy topics, but there's a distance from meaningful dialog or action.
It wraps up with a magnificent wall of sound that is one of my favorite things about this band. All the things they can have going on at the same time and somehow make it work. All those voices. The layered choruses. Every damned instrument. All that noise. All that intensity. The piano parts, holy fuck, are the fire on top of the fire on top of the fire here - burning like the sun. When the thing finally winds down rapidly at the end, parking the guitar perfectly, every music receptor in my brain is dancing, jumping, and screaming.
Shake down the mountains
The hills can be removed
But love and faith won't be replaced
It's a raging banger I hope at least parts of it get to be played live someday, because I want to hear it. I'm not holding my breath, but I will keep my fingers crossed.
The fact that the brilliance of this song got eclipsed by social media I don't even know what is kinda tragic.
YOU HAD TO BE THERE
A solid, fun, nostalgic song, a Bosstones celebration of past days featuring horn riffs & other sounds that carry me away to my own memories of long-ago past.
WHEN GOD WAS GREAT
Cards on the table: I'm an atheist most days and occasionally a particular sort of agnostic on the other days. So sometimes the word "god" can cause an allergic reaction or induce a pang of caution until I get a sense of the context.
When God was good It was understood
There was no better place to be than in our neighborhood
When God was great We just couldn’t wait
To get as far away from there we didn’t hesitate
A song overflowing with nostalgia, one of the first bells it rings for me is the short-and-sweet (and always irksome because it didn't rhyme) grace my family would, with varying degrees of consistency through the years, say before meals:
"God is great, god is good, and we thank him for this food."
That's a wave of nostalgia that washes over me, initially about knee-height. Hey, look at that.
Here we can recall the capriciousness of youth's perspective — The neighborhood was the best place to be, but also a place to be left far behind as soon as possible. WGWG calls back to the days when life was good, being kids and not knowing much about the bigger world, being full of hope and potential. Great fondness for the physical and temporal realm of childhood and greater hope for what comes after and beyond.
Contrast with the Awful Grace of God reference in The Killing of Georgie (Part III):
In our own despair and against our will
Comes wisdom through the awful grace of god
(Aeschylus, Greek tragedian
quoted by Robert Kennedy when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated)
Perhaps the notion of god's grace doesn't hold up so great or good into adulthood, as one realizes more of reality. That's my take, at least.
Those nostalgia waves are bringing the tide in, by the way, and getting to chest-height.
The song goes on to prompt further reflection via sounds and words. Waves build and build higher and higher until the bridge ends with a hypnotic wall of sound sustained for longer than it has any conventional business being sustained for, swelling until nostalgia-inducing waves are well over your head.
It's pretty fucking magical. A magical musical spell, for sure. Tho' with the way I've been feeling, sometimes a little more wistful than I can handle.
WHAT IT TAKES
This is a thoroughly and ridiculously fun song that could easily double as an 80s sitcom theme. And I am absolutely 100% here for it. I take it as a gift to get through the despair of the pandemic.
Y'know, a sort of 'Fuck it, let's dance and forget the fucking world for a few minutes.'
"Turn up the vol-yuuUUUUUME—" while you're at it.
They must have had so much fun recording this one. Full of joy to hear and to sing along with. But I also hear a deeper meaning in some of the lyrics, so give it a listen, and see if you do, too.
Long As I Can See the Light
A really lovely really solid cover. I'm a bit neutral regarding the song choice, but once, long ago, Creedence Clearwater Revival was a contender for a position among my top 5 favorite bands. Nicely done. But it's also an entry on the "more introspective than I can manage lately, I will probably and hopefully appreciate more at some point down the line" side of this album.
The Truth Hurts
I don't know that I have anything specific to say about this, except it's another good, solid song. Combines "nostalgic sounds" with the more "singable up-beat" aspects that my brain still needs in plentitude. Not quite a contender for my favorite, but gets a lot of mileage singing in the car.
It Went Well
I love this one. Love the tune. Love the lyrics. Loved hearing it at Punk in Drublic in Worcester. I feel every piece of its relevancy. This frequently plays itself in the back of my head unbidden.
I Don't Want to be You
As an atheist, I also have a bit of a reaction to the notion of hell, particularly if it's used in telling someone that's where they're going.
That said, there are some who bring me to the verge of wishing there was a hell, because there would in fact be a special place there for them, if there were any kind of balance for justice in this universe. I'm pretty sure this song is at least partly directed at one of those people.
So I'm down with it.
Musically it walks on the reflection-inducing side of the line, so weighs a little heavier than my favorites of WGWG.
The Final Parade
I should love this song. I really really want to love this song. I really should love it. I actually kinda feel like a jerk because I don't love it. It's chock full of my favorite ingredients. It's a celebration of ska-punk with guest appearances from far and wide, fresh and classic, originators and groundbreakers and next-generationers. And it's eight freaking minutes of it. But for some reason it just doesn't click with me.
That lack of click strikes a little hard with me particularly as the song tops off the album. So many BossToneS albums end with a jaw-droppingly amazing blazing album closer, a song that is often my favorite thing on the album, or very close, or at least solidly in the top few.
Devil's Night Out --> A Little Bit Ugly
More Noise & Other Disturbances --> They Came to Boston
Don't Know How to Party --> Seven Thirty Seven / Shoe Glue
Question the Answers --> Jump Through the Hoops
Let's Face It --> 1-2-8
Pin Point & Gin Joints --> A Pretty Sad Excuse
Magic of Youth --> Open & Honest
While We're At It --> After the Music is Over
So The Final Parade leaves me a little unsatisfied.
And, for the record, I feel completely ridiculous saying that, because I'm so fucking grateful for this album.
Knowing it was coming got me through a lot of 2020, and listening to it got me through a lot of 2021 (and will continue to do so in 2022). All the songs are so strong, pushed and produced to 115%, I can hear it even in the ones that don't quite sync with me while my headspace is so out of whack and extra sensitive.
Maybe this should also be chalked up to there being something wrong with me. :D
For the record, if I should ever get to hear them play The Final Parade live, that not-quite-clicking will NOT, not for one moment, stop me from sloppily dancing and shouting out the lyrics while smooshed against the rail surrounded by a bunch of other people also sloppily dancing and shouting the lyrics.
I may be broken, but I'm not a monster. Fun is fun, after all.
And we could all use some more fun these days, eh?
Go give this thing a listen or ten or twelve. You'll be glad you did.
author / artist rambles on about painting, writing, cats, punk rock, vampires, ska-core, mTBI, comics, and life in general.