THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2005 Universal)
Every journey has a first step, and by luck of the draw, my first Bosstones is their 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection CD. This was purchased in the 3-for-$10 bin at BMV, during the now-legendary 2018 Toronto excursion with Aaron. It was the only Bosstones found on that trip, unfortunately, but one is better than nothin’.
I like Universal’s 20th Century Masters series; most of them anyway. Some are pretty terrible, but in general they compile key hits with the occasional non-album gem. The Bosstones’ instalment covers the major label period from 1993’s Ska-Core, The Devil, and More EP to 2000’s album Pay Attention. Pretty much “the stuff you might know”. I say this because I knew a lot of these songs. Which is good!
It’s the brass that makes everything sound so damn tasty. The first blockbuster punch of “Someday I Suppose” and “Don’t Know How to Party” bring the horns to the fore. When you have a gravel-voiced singer like Dicky Barrett it helps to have some sax and trombone to deliver more melodic hooks. This frees Barrett to sing in his in inimitable style, scraping the paint from the walls with sonic sandpaper.
The rest of the band are more than capable of handling background vocal chores, as demonstrated by the 1993 Bob Marley cover “Simmer Down”. Dennis Brockenborough (trombone) ably joins Barrett for “answer” vocals, enriching the Bosstones’ brew. The quality cover tune is swiftly followed by another: “Detroit Rock City” from the 1994 Kiss tribute album Kiss My Ass. Catch the Gene Simmons cameo at the front, telling Dicky he couldn’t do “Detroit” but any other song would be fine. Gene was forced to eat his words, because here’s “Detroit”, with a brick-solid wall of horns and chords. Inclusions like this are great because fans who didn’t want a Kiss tribute album and can’t find the single can just buy 20th Century Masters instead.
Moving on chronologically, “Kinder Words” and “Pictures to Prove It” are more tough, hook-laden ska rock. Tracing the river of cool hooks back to its source, they rise from the well of brassy horns and backing gang vocal melodies. The Bosstones formula is hard to resist once you jump in. Then, once Dicky Barrett’s unique voice gets hold, you’re in the tide. From the same period, a “clean remix” of “Hell of a Hat” is another inclusion that would help out collectors; it’s from a promo-only CD single.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones had a major hit with 1997’s “The Impression That I Get”. It’s completely deserved because it’s a brilliant single. It doesn’t vary from the core Bosstones sound, it just distils the elements down to a concentrate. It’s an obvious gateway point to the band, an invitation to a pretty cool party. From the same album (Let’s Face It) are two more recognisable hits: “Royal Oil” and “The Rascal King”. And though they are not as familiar, “So Sad to Say” and “She Just Happened” from Pay Attention are pretty much just as good.
This is one 20th Century Masters CD that I don’t regret owning. Brilliant band, solid tunes throughout and a couple rarities for the connoisseur. Get Mighty.