Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Band reunions are invariably letdowns. They are greeted with massive amounts of hype, only to result in tepid records. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is flying counter to this. Last month the band released its first original LP in seven years, "Pin Points & Gin Joints." While largely unpublicized, the album displays the sound of a band no longer concerned with pleasing the masses, but rather interested in simply making music.
The Bosstones is one of the more improbable pop music stories of the 1990s. It made its debut in 1990 with "Devil's Night Out," essentially inventing the ska-core genre in the process.
The self-explanatory style combined Two-Tone-inspired ska and hardcore punk, two of the less commercially successful genres of the decade. Yet in 1997, the Bosstones caught lightning in a bottle with the hit single, "The Impression That I Get."
The song ultimately proved to be the band's downfall, though, as it was never able to produce anything as catchy again. The Bosstones broke up in 2004 after two failed albums, and its members pursued various other projects. The draw to return to the studio was apparently impossible to resist for the band, though, and "Pin Points & Gin Joints" is the by product.
The new album opens with a high point in "Graffiti Worth Reading," which sounds as if it could have come from a Specials album save for singer Dicky Barrett's distinctive sand-papery voice. The song has a crisp horn line, bouncing bass line and energy abounding. The flavor of the song leans considerably harder toward ska than hardcore.
This can be said for much of the album. There is obvious emphasis on the horn lines, which are the strongest since the Bosstones' commercial breakthrough, "Let's Face It." Furthermore, the group sacrifices some of the edge of its earlier albums for a more refined pop sound.
Of course, this doesn't mean there is any dearth in attitude. "You Left Right?" replays a not-so-fond reunion with an ex-girlfriend with Barrett's spitting, sneering Boston accent highlighting the chorus.
"Wasted Summers" is an emphatic middle finger to former Boston Red Sox center-fielder Johnny Damon, who left the city for the hated New York Yankees in 2005. The subject matter comes off as either passionate or confounding, depending on your enthusiasmfor baseball.
The album is thankfully not devoid of the band's punk influences. "Too Many Stars" is an angry war protest song that would fit comfortably on the band's finest 1994 album, "Question the Answers."
The album is far from perfect, though. A few of the songs dip into mopey self-reflection ("A Pretty Sad Excuse") that no doubt would have drawn 1990s Dicky Barrett's ire. A few other instantly forgettable filler tracks ("Death Valley Vipers," "Your Life") could have easily been left on the cutting-room floor.
Regardless of these few misfires, though, the album represents a return to form for the Bosstones. It plays like a band freed from the weight of expectations and focused simply on forcing the listener to have a good time. With "Pin Points & Gin Joints," the Bosstones makes it difficult to resist.
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