Album review: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – When God Was Great
Ska stalwarts The Mighty Mighty Bosstones aren’t known for their nostalgia, but this 11th studio album finds frontman Dicky Barrett looking back at the past a lot. But then, when you’ve been a band for almost 40 years, there’s a lot to remember. Those reminiscences take different forms on these 15 songs – some look back at the life of band, some at life in general, and, in the case of epic eight minute-long closer The Final Parade, some look back at the history of ska-punk.
A buoyant celebration of the scene, it features guest appearances by – among many others – Rancid’s Tim Armstrong (who co-produced this album with Ted Hutt), Stiff Little Fingers’ Jake Burns, The Suicide Machines’ Jay Navarro, Goldfinger’s John Feldmann, The Interrupters’ Aimee Interrupter and Sonic Boom Six’s Laila Khan. While its high spirits might be at odds with the wistful nature of much of what precedes it, it also sums up the essence of the album (and ska-punk) in general: defiance and optimism, unity and solidarity.
While they might be harder to find on other parts of this record, those core qualities nevertheless permeate its songs. Bruised rejoices in the power of live music as Dicky remembers, ‘A pair of eight-holes with The Bouncing Souls’ before admitting that, ‘We might be bruised but we’re not broken.’ On the surface, he’s talking about mosh-pits, but there’s also a deeper meaning to it, too, namely those core values mentioned above.
Opener Decide is all about making the most out of a bad situation, but doubles up as a commentary on America’s recent political turbulence; M O V E is an inspiring reckoning with a post-coronavirus world; Lonely Boy is a poignant elegy to both love and childhood; and the title-track dives headfirst into the latter to the sound of a tender piano. (There are also horns – don’t fear.) It all coalesces to show that in a scene that’s often derided, there’s still plenty of life and love left. It’s encouragement we could all use.
When God Was Great is out on May 7 via Hellcat
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