Do you know what happened twenty years ago today, on January 27, 1997? You probably don’t. So here, I’ll tell you. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones released their breakthrough single “The Impression That I Get.”
Okay, back to your regular scheduled programming.
No! The Bosstones have been largely lost in the annals of history. It’s not fair. They deserve better; they deserve more. The Bosstones were much more than just another ska band, of which there were plenty in the late 90’s. The majority of ska bands out there were glossy, clean and polished in some of the worst ways imaginable. They sounded like California in a way that isn’t necessarily a compliment. I’m talking about bands like Save Ferris, Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger. Those bands were fun, but the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were real in the way that the weather feels real on the East Coast when you get back from a trip out west. I went to San Diego in February a few years ago. Just for a few days. And you know, it was delightful. It was sunny; the weather was nice and warm. Everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Then I flew home to Philadelphia. While I was away it had snowed, it was cold and the air had a razor-like edge to it. Everything felt raw. That was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Of course the band had been around for a while before they dropped “The Impression That I Get.” The album it appeared on, Let’s Face It, was their fifth album and the band had actually formed over fifteen years earlier. You can said they were due.
Being a native son of the great state of Maine, I had been hip to the Bosstones for a while. They frequently teamed up with local legends Rustic Overtones, which is probably how I got turned on to them. The album that hooked me was the one that came out two years before Let’s Face It, the more aggressive and louder Question the Answers. It was harder; the horns sounded different than a horn section had ever sounded to me before. Saxs are generally considered smooth, but on Question the Answers they were abrasive and assaulting. Question the Answers wasn’t going to be their ticket to the main stream and while I was okay with that, it seemed like the band wasn’t, because they definitely cleaned things up when it came time to put out Let’s Face It. If the Bosstones branded themselves as ska-core, Let’s Face It is decidedly less core and more ska. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just more of a bummer than anything else. If Question the Answers was early February on the east coast, Let’s Face It was late June.
You can tell me that the Bosstones continued on after Let’s Face It, but not for me. It’s not like the band’s more streamlined sound and new found popularity was a turn off or anything. I think it was more like we were friends in high school for a bit and while we had some fun, college came and we drifted apart. And like friends from high school, when we ran into each other in the following years, it was cool and fun, but short-lived. Rehash some memories, trade some inside jokes, blast “Hell of a Hat” and then move on. It’s not a devaluing of that relationship by any means. It’s a honest acknowledgement of the passing of time.
So here’s to twenty years Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I’d say here’s to twenty more, but let’s be honest, ska just doesn’t age well.