So instead of thinking about a post and getting it mostly squared in my head then never getting around to it, or having it all go stale or irrelevant by the time I can sit down to it, or letting enough time pass that I can't recall all the inspired blurts that I wanted to write in the first place…
… here goes.
I have been wanting to write up a review or individual song reviews of the new Mighty Mighty Bosstones release, When God Was Great. Hell, I still want to do that for their 2018 release, While We're At It, and still might. I wasn't sure if I would really get around to either, because all the reasons, but then Internet Stuff Happened and brought me here.
Twitter and I have been in a sort of trial separation, so I was hesitant to even go look when I caught wind of some strong opinions being tweeted about one of their songs/ videos – The Killing of Georgie (Part III), on the heels of a magazine article. But I did.
I tend to listen/ watch things a few times before I can figure out what I might think of something, and more than a few before I might commit some words to it. Some of that is the Fine Arts Bachelor's & Master's degrees, all the Art Theory & Art Criticism classes (If only I could give you some idea of how many times we devolved into passionate discussions of whether or not Thomas Kincaid qualified as an Artist…). Some of it is the brain since it got hit. Context is harder, holding all the factors in mind at once, connecting dots, seeing the whole picture, all that – I'm still a computer with wonky RAM. MUCH less wonky than the worst of it, but still work to be done if I can ever get to pre-accident brain. There's more to it than those factors, but in the interest of brevity and relevance, moving on…
When I first saw the video & listened to the song, my gut suspected some people might react this way, to how it appears on the surface. I gave it a few more views & listens (and many more since). I didn't know at first but learned early on that the title referred to a Rod Stewart song about a gay friend of his back who was murdered in the 70s. It was clear among the tweets that most had no idea of that detail, and when given the information (a few others brought it up) didn't care to explore or weigh it further for context relevance.
It was also pretty clear that many reactionaries had little or no knowledge of the band and their background. And I wonder how much knowledge of ska history weighed in on the "snappy" limited-character digs and take-downs? Ska takes peppy & upbeat, and, historically & often, mixes it up with the political. And, hey, didja know dancing can be a form of protest?
Context. Has it become optional? Hm. There have been situations where "context" and "nuance" have been all but weaponized. So even discussions of context are subject to context.
Maybe full context wouldn't help enough anyway, not for some.
How about metaphor? How many still consider complex notions like hyperbole, metaphor, symbolism, artists' other works, potential intent & all the angles, etc… when evaluating a work of art — whether it be a movie, a painting, or a 4.5-minute music video? Let's go out on a limb here: Could "the nicest man in the world," as I've heard Ben Carr called by those who know him, dancing through empty streets actually symbolize something? Like the attitudes of many people in the face of the challenges of this country and world? Or maybe it's a declaration of "sometimes, dancing is all you've got."
Or perhaps both?
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones have made plenty of songs with unclear or double meanings. "The Impression That I Get" was not written about an HIV test or a pregnancy scare, but Dicky lets people make of it what they will. ((Great Chris DeMakes podcast interview with Dicky Barrett & Joe Gittleman about how "that knock on wood" song did come together, at iheart.com, or through iTunes))
They've also made plenty of songs that make a very clear stance: Mighty Mighty Bosstones on ‘Let’s Face It’ becoming an anti-racism anthem 20 years after its release.
The Bosstones have always stood for humanity, community, friendship, respect.
The thing about some online magazine "thinkpieces" is sometimes they don't do as much of the thinking as they think they do, or as much as they appear or pretend to do. And then some others read it & think the writer's taken in all the factors, done all the thinking, and then take those words as informed analysis, the full gospel.
Context. Metaphor. Subtlety. Symbolism. Dual meanings. Something created specifically to make people think about it. Dance can be a form of protest, and sometimes — like in a pandemic — dancing is all you've got. The Bosstones said it 28 years ago: "Our Only Weapon is This Song." Given that, what is the guy who dances supposed to do?
Those factors & considerations may still not make a difference for some to rethink the song and/or the video. And that's ok. Sometimes great creatives put things together that the intent gets lost, or some people just don't get, or just don't like. We don't have to all come to the same conclusions about things. I can't make anyone "get" anything in the way it fits together for me. From the other side, I also try not to 'yuck' anyone else's 'yum' (assuming that 'yum' respects humanity, rights, boundaries, etc…).
Could be I've thought too much on it. Could be I'm wrong all around. Wouldn't be the first time on either possibility. "The stars were not aligned." We could all use more wisdom, and could use less of it coming "through the awful grace of god."
So make of it what you will, & go in peace with whatever that is. Love one another.
I'm done & gonna go put "When God Was Great" on for another play (I can't write while listening to wordsy music). Because even with a few debatedly wobbly spots (hey, even I don't fall head-over-heels love-at-first-listen with every single word they sing), this album blows my fucking mind. This band, after more than three decades, still rocks. Hard. Knowing it was coming played a significant role in me getting through the past year. If this song / video keeps anyone from checking the rest of it out, then it's a damned shame.
I'll leave you with my last live view of the Bosstones: The close of the third night of the Hometown Throwdown, December 2019.
author / artist rambles on about painting, writing, cats, punk rock, vampires, ska-core, mTBI, comics, and life in general.