M is for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Let’s Face It
Mercury Records, 1997
I am well aware that you and everyone you know—your mom, your neighbors, the people you work with, that weird kid you knew in grade school that had to drink everything out of a crazy straw—has heard “The Impression That I Get.” At least that’s the impression I get. So we’ll get that out of the way first. Yes, it’s a good song, it is extremely catchy, and the Bosstones got huge because of it. Their timing was perfect with punk and ska getting huge in the late 90s. But not only is Let’s Face It full of other great songs, the Bosstones had four records before this that are all equally fantastic. For those who only know of “The Impression That I Get,” they are missing out, not only on the rest of a great record, but also on one of the best ska bands.
Let’s Face It is a fun ska record, which is pretty clear on first impression. “Noise Brigade” is an upbeat song full of catchy horns, whoas, and Dicky Barret’s quite gravelly voice. Imagine Tom Waits fronting a ska band, and you kind of get the idea of Barret’s vocal timbre. It’s very distinctive and he’s a great singer; if there’s something the Bosstones are known for besides “The Impression That I Get,” it is Barret’s voice. Songs like “Royal Oil” and “Another Drinking Song” roll at a slower tempo and have a bit of reggae feel, while “That Bug Bit Me” and “Desensitized” retain a bit of the heaviness and bite that earlier Bosstones’ records have. And then there’s the category of fun ska songs, into which falls much of the record. Despite the fun, the Bosstones do take on some serious topics. “Numbered Days” follows in the tradition of Question the Answers’ “Kinder Words” and “Hell of a Hat,” calling for an end to street violence, while “Let’s Face It” tackles racism and discrimination.
Back when I was younger, I loved ska. I don’t listen to it anywhere near as much as I used too, and there’s only a few bands that I’m still really into. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are one. They don’t just play fun ska music, but they write great songs. They have a whole discography full of great songs, not just that one that was played on the radio all the time. And, after finally getting to see them live at Riot Fest 2014, I can say they are just as entertaining live as listening to any of their records are. Watch this live set from 1997, or at least some of it. There’s plenty from their earlier records, but it’s also a snapshot into the time when Let’s Face It came out and they were getting incredibly popular.