The sun is shining, it feels like summer, we’re in the mood… what better music to put on than some ska?

No, sorry, that was a rhetorical question. The answer is “Nothing, ska is easy summertime tunes that remind you of being young in the late 90’s and it should be piped into the world from every lamppost May-September just to make the world a better place.”. Just FYI.

And is there any more easy-going upbeat ska than some Mighty Mighty Bosstones? Yeah, probably, but they’re up there as one of the most well-known proponents.

It’s been a while since I have listened to Bosstones and I only really knew hits, so I don’t know whether the sentimental country-flavour of ‘Certain Things’ is a new direction – or the more straight-reggae vibe of ‘Lonely Boy’. I get a good vibe, though, from ‘The Truth Hurts’, which is a bit more rock / grunge.

The album ‘When God Was Great’ is still unmistakably Bosstones and the two opening tracks, ‘Decide’ and ‘M.O.V.E.’ are exactly what I would expect (perhaps even a little self-derivative, if there is such a thing as “sounding like you’re trying to sound like yourselves”!).

Energy levels seem to dip a little after the first two (singles?), though, with ‘You Had to Be There’ just a little off the pace. The tracks ‘When God Was Great’ and ‘The Killing of Georgie (Part III)’ are quite sentimental but still stick to the ska formula of off-beat guitar / hi-hats and horn backing. It doesn’t retain the energy and impact of the hi-tempo stuff and at times end up sounding like the soundtrack to a montage out of Sister Act II or something equally improbable. I don’t really get ‘Long As I Can See The Light’ which goes to a weird detective B-movie place with heavily reverbed 1930s-style muted trumpet and saxophone.

Personally, I don’t get as much out of more relaxed and laid-back (more UK-style) ska but if that’s your vibe, and you always preferred downbeat Bosstones, this may be a great album for you, as there is more in the contemplative mood than the high-energy – but I guess it’s just not realistic of me to expect a band to not evolve and to not become more sentimental over the years, or to not broaden their musical influences so I think am being churlish there. 

I do feel a bit more justified in my general beef with the 80’s-Bruce-Springsteen production. I feel overall it’s not the Bosstones strongest effort, particularly in terms of the quality control that resulted in a 15 track album with an eight-minute ender that sounds more like clown music than ska. That said, the opening couple of tracks really picked me up and made me smile and feel like dancing (which isn’t common for me) so that’s a win, right?

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: When God Was Great – Out Now (Hellcat Records)

Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.