The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Island Def Jam
It’s taken me a while to decide whether I really like this latest release from Boston’s favorite ska-core practitioners. Pay Attention is a solid album, but it’s definitely poppier than prior Bosstones efforts. I’m sure that’ll have some snot-nosed suburbanite “punk” kids shouting “sellout,” but I believe it’s simply that the boys have matured a bit and are getting a little more melodic and less thrashy in their “old” age (and hey, to my knowledge, these guys are all somewhere near my age – late 20’s – so “old” is definitely a relative term). The majority of the tracks on Pay Attention are slicker and sweeter than previous Boss-tunes, building on the phenomenal success of “The Impression That I Get” and the Let’s Face It album. I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bad thing (to the contrary, the boys do quite well with this stuff), it just took me by surprise — even most of Let’s Face It was harder-edged than that album’s “hits” would lead you to believe. In the long run, though, I’d rather hear the Bosstones on the radio than the million and one less deserving bands out there, and tracks like “The Skeleton Song,” “Allow Them,” and “Bad News and Bad Breaks” certainly have major airplay potential — not to mention the first single, “So Sad to Say,” which is already pouring out of a radio near you.
Also worth noting is that fact that while the “core” side of the Bosstones’ signature sound may be a less emphasized on Pay Attention, the “ska” side is in full effect — for example, “All Things Considered” and “Where You Come From” have a nice, skankable vibe, “The Day He Didn’t Die” almost has a rocksteady feel, and “She Just Happened,” with its Caribbean, almost Calypso feel, is probably my favorite song on the record. Still, I must admit that it is hard to find many examples of the “core” side here — there is a great, Dropkick Murphys-like Irish-American street punk feel to “Riot on Broad Street,” “High School Dance” has the punk rock attitude, and the opening “Let Me Be” thrashes along pretty nicely after the introductory cocktail music, but overall, Pay Attention is a decidedly more subdued affair than I’d have expected from the Bosstones.
I don’t want to sound like I’m paying left hand compliments, here, because the Bosstones have really turned out a strong record, it’s just that while Pay Attention is a logical progression from Let’s Face It, it’s still a progression I didn’t expect. The final verdict, though, is that I do like Pay Attention a lot, even though I really had to pay attention to come to that conclusion. Besides, I’m willing to bet these songs will all get a little punkier on the Warped Tour this summer…