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Michigan Daily - November 10, 1994

By Brian A. Gnatt Link


The bad in plaid Mighty Mighty Bosstones have returned once again, with another new and innovative album, and enough skanking ska to scatter anyone's brain. The eight man, Bostonian ska-core band is just as cutting edged as ever, spreading their unique and awesome music throughout the world.

The fresh, fun and simply brilliant music is what gives the Bosstones their allure. As what vocalist Dickey Barrett humbly described earlier this year as "A good rock'n'roll band, maybe," is an understatement to say the least. The band's large and devoted fan base is enough proof that The Bosstones are anything but your typical rock'n'roll band.

This time around, the Bosstones are happy to present their latest album, Question the Answers, which was released last month. The album explores some new and undeveloped territory by the band since their last record, the major label debut, Don't Know How to Party.

"I'm really proud of Question the Answers," bassist Joe Gittleman said. "I see it as a change from Don't Know How to Party but I don't really see it as a change overall. It's always a change from one album to the next, but if you look and listen to all of them, you'll hear they are more similar than you might think. It's more like our first two records than Don't Know How to Party.

Either way, it is still a groundbreaking album from a trailblazing band (the way Gittleman puts it), that was the first American ska group signed to a major label.

"We just wanted to have some different textures," Gittleman said. "The thing about it is, we never sit down and discuss what it's going to be like. We're willing to try different things. We may be a little more willing to get out of the standard Bosstones formula.

"You find yourself in the position that you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't. If the album sounded exactly like the last one, or one of the others, people would say it sounded like the last one. If it doesn't, a lot of people are bummed out it's not what they are used to. I think that people that really know the Bosstones know that the only thing they can expect is the unexpected."

Besides their slight musical evolution, the Bosstones are also growing up a bit, and may be beginning to sway away from their career obsession with plaid.

"The records are still plaid on the inside, and we still wear it, but this is the first Bosstones album that doesn't have any plaid on it. It still means a lot to us, and to be honest, in the beginning it didn't mean anything," Gittleman admitted.

"We consider ourselves to be musically paid. Plaid symbolizes to us unity and people coming together, much like the way 2-Tone symbolized in the late '70s, for the Specials and those bands. It means a lot, but in the beginning it didn't mean shit. It was just to look stupid. It's still there, we still wear it, and it will always be part of what we do."

Switching to a major label has exposed the Bosstones to a whole new base of fans, and also successes.

"We were scared, but it worked out to be for the best," Barrett said. "We always want to be an independent band and we have completely independent hearts. We were afraid of the big rock 'n' roll machine. Mercury allowed us the creative freedom we needed and asked for."

Gittleman agreed. "We were really cautious going into it. It wasn't something we jumped at, or really something we wanted to do. It was just that Curtis (the owner of Taang! Records) was ripping us off. We were out there busting our ass, and he was selling records and keeping all the money. We were left with no other alternative to be the Bosstones. We had to look for someone who would support us while we recorded our next record at least, and to pay us for the records we sell, which is something that Mercury does."

As the band releases more albums and their airplay steadily increases, so does the popularity of the band.

"It's always bigger," Gittleman said. "Our first tour was in 1991, and it's been a steady increase in fans, which is great. That's where I get my gratification, is seeing more people turning up at shows. As opposed to the record company, and finding out how many records we've sold. All that shit seems so intangible to me. You can't touch that and appreciate it."

"We're into touring and we're going to tour as long as we're into it. We played 250 dates out of last year, which is a fucking lot of shows. We might scale it back a bit, but you never know. But for now our MO's the same, it's just tour, tour, tour."

Constant touring may be a difficult thing to do, but for the Bosstones, it's a way of life, and also a lot of fun.

"It's unbelievable to hear somebody bitch and complain, who's job it is to tour around and play for an hour every night, and get paid fairly well to do it, drink free beer, and hang out with cool people," Gittleman said. "They sit back and say 'It's so hard, it's so hard.' It's like, c'mon and look at the people around you working at the club who just came off a nine to five shift. It's just absolutely ridiculous. I have no time for any of that shit.

"And to hear about bands who cancel tours because of exhaustion? Exhaustion? I'm always exhausted for Christ's sake. Exhaustion is like a rich man's affliction. People that have to work don't have time to be exhausted. Billy Corgan, Jesus Christ, I'm sorry you're not feeling well."

Surprisingly, the next scheduled Bosstones project is a home video, planned for release early next year. It would include the group's six music videos and also some live footage of the band. "We've been shooting a lot of video footage on tour," Gittleman said. "We got a lot of stuff of us clowning around in Europe, and want to put it together in something kind of cool with all the videos. Maybe if we can work it out with Taang!, the videos for 'Where'd You Go' and 'Devil's Night Out' also."

After a bad experience with one Detroit club, the Bosstones have been screening clubs before agreeing to perform. "When we really started to try and look at the places we were playing, a few really shitty venues got by us, and it really tends to bum out a tour," Gittleman said. "I like St. Andrew's, I think it's really cool. Harpo's was a real fucking drag. That place sucks!"