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The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

One of the first bands to cross high-energy ska with hardcore punk and hard rock guitars, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones laid a great deal of the groundwork for the mid- to late-'90s ska explosion, helping shift its tone toward party music. Formed in the mid-'80s, the Bosstones built up a devoted cult following among ska advocates, and released their debut album, Devils Night Out, in 1990. In the mid-'90s, as West Coast ska acts like No Doubt and Sublime enjoyed mainstream breakthroughs, the Bosstones followed suit on the East Coast with the 1997 album Let's Face It and the hit single "The Impression That I Get." After years of nonstop touring and the 2002 album A Jackknife to a Swan, the Bosstones went on indefinite hiatus as the members pursued solo projects. They reunited for live work in 2007, releasing albums like 2011's The Magic of Youth, 2018's While We're at It, and 2021's When God Was Great. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones formed in 1983 in Boston, featuring Tim Bridewell, Dicky Barrett (vocals), Nate Albert (guitar), Joe Gittleman (bass), Josh Dalsimer (drums), and Tim "Johnny Vegas" Burton (saxophone), plus dancer Ben Carr. While all the members shared a love of ska, their tastes also ran elsewhere; Barrett, in particular, was involved in the local straight-edge hardcore scene and played with a band called Impact Unit. Originally calling themselves simply the Bosstones, the group appended "Mighty Mighty" to their name after discovering a Boston-area a cappella group with an identical moniker. The group appeared on a ska compilation, but disbanded temporarily to allow Albert to finish high school. In 1989, the Bosstones re-formed and recorded their debut album, Devils Night Out, which was released in 1990 on Taang! Records. The follow-up, 1992's More Noise and Other Disturbances, saw several personnel shifts; Bridewell and Dalsimer departed, the latter to attend college, and the two were replaced by drummer Joe Sirois, saxophonist Kevin Lenear, and trombonist Dennis Brockenborough, a lineup that lasted through much of the band's career. 1992 also saw the release of the Where'd You Go EP, which contained several hard rock covers. In 1993, the Bosstones signed a major-label deal with Mercury and released Don't Know How to Party; in spite of their fondness for plaid, a holdover from their early pajama-clad gigs, the group also landed a television commercial for a jean company. 1994 saw the band paying homage to their hardcore roots with a mini-album of mostly covers, Ska-Core, The Devil and More, as well as the full-length Question the Answers, one of their finest efforts. A year later, the Bosstones appeared in the film Clueless, performing "Where'd You Go" and "Someday I Suppose," two of their most popular numbers; they also landed a main-stage slot on that summer's Lollapalooza tour. Even if their music often strayed far afield from classic 2 Tone ska revival (especially their earlier material), the Bosstones, unlike many of their contemporaries, retained some of that movement's political consciousness. In 1996, they helped organize the Safe and Sound benefit album in response to the Boston-area family planning clinic slayings, and they performed frequently at benefit shows for battered women's groups; most of their concerts also featured information booths from the Anti-Racist Action Group. In 1997, the breakthrough of ska-pop bands like No Doubt and Sublime paved the way for the accessible 2 Tone-inspired Let's Face It to become the band's biggest-selling album yet; it was eventually certified platinum, buoyed by the success of the anthemic "The Impression That I Get," which fell just short of topping the modern rock charts that summer. Live from the Middle East followed in 1998 as a stopgap release, and the band experienced their first personnel shifts in some time: saxophonist Lenear was the first to leave, replaced by Roman "The Showman" Fleysher, and guitarist Albert departed again, partly to care for an ailing family member and partly to finish his education at Brown University (Kevin Stevenson of the Shods had already served as his temporary touring substitute in 1997). Albert's replacement, Lawrence Katz, signed on after the band completed the follow-up to Let's Face It; titled Pay Attention, the record was released in the spring of 2000 and produced another modern rock radio hit in "So Sad to Say." A Jackknife to a Swan appeared two years later, as did a split with Madcap. In 2003, with individual members already involved in other projects and essentially having toured nonstop since 1991, the Bosstones announced they were going on indefinite hiatus. During this time, Barrett was featured as the announcer on ABC's late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live. The band returned in 2007 by performing several live shows and recording three new songs for inclusion on the compilation Medium Rare. The new material marked the end of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' hiatus, and in 2008 the group released their eighth studio album, Pin Points and Gin Joints. In 2011, the band issued the studio album The Magic of Youth, featuring the single "Like a Shotgun." After playing a handful of shows in 2017 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Let's Face It, the Bosstones headed back to the recording studio, releasing While We're at It on their own Big Rig label in June 2018. Their 11th album, When God Was Great, arrived in May 2021, and featured co-production by their longtime collaborator Ted Hutt and Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. Included on the album was the eight-minute-long anthem "The Final Parade," which featured an all-star cast of guests including Armstrong, Aimee Interrupter, Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers, and members of Less Than Jake, the Toasters, the Specials, and many others. Early the next year, on January 27, 2022, the band released a statement announcing their breakup.
© Steve Huey & Mark Deming /TiVo


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