The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Magic of Youth (Cover Artwork)

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: The Magic of YouthThe Magic of Youth (2011)
Rude Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: nedsammynedsammy
(others by this writer | submit your own)

If I were asked to come up with an album title for a band that's been going for about 25 years (on and off), The Magic of Youth might not be the first thing that would spring to my mind. But the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, scarred from past battles (major line-up changes, a hiatus, the "death" of ska) .
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If I were asked to come up with an album title for a band that's been going for about 25 years (on and off), The Magic of Youth might not be the first thing that would spring to my mind. But the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, scarred from past battles (major line-up changes, a hiatus, the "death" of ska) retain a certain freshness, as well as a willingness, perhaps, to have an ironic jab at themselves, that justifies the title.

Much has changed in the band since their peak--the departure of key members Nate Albert and Dennis Brockenborough, who were important to the band's sound and songwriting, being prominent. Dicky Barrett's voice, once a mighty roar like some kind of drunken death metal bluesman, has settled too. He now sounds more like a singer, with a thicker American accent and a more mellow tone. Obviously, anyone expecting another Question the Answers is going to come away a little disappointed. But that doesn't stop this being a great album.

Another change is the lyrics--past regrets have always been prominent for the Bosstones, with classics like "Toxic Toast" and "Someday I Suppose" tackling them head-on. Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed the album shows something of a more positive attitude about time and its passing--"Sunday Afternoons on Wisdom Ave.", a sunny ska lark, talks about childhood lived in relative poverty, but is more positive and perhaps fair-minded than unhappy: Dicky says it was "nice to be there / It was nice to have." The title track shows the decline of a relationship, speaking of an argumentative young couple and the horrible decline and early end of their lives. The chorus seems ironic, as the album's title might: "Yelling and fighting / The magic of youth!" But at the end of the song, quite beautifully, it's turned around. The couple are on their last legs, but have stayed together, Dicky subtly hinting at a deeper bond beyond the pain and anger--the last lines of the song tell us, "It's all so exciting / The magic of youth!"

Another great thing about the songs is the music itself--"Sunday Afternoons" is delightful, and danceable, and the chorus is catchy. One can definitely hear the changes Lawrence Katz has brought to the band--a more definite reggae and pop-punk influence is there, as opposed to Nate Albert's 2-Tone and metal. The gentle rock chords over the chorus and the little reggae fills between the simple upstrokes of the verses are great. In the title track he lays down a great, rocking riff in some of the instrumental parts, similar to Albert's style, but in the verses uses the sharp strokes of soul guitar. Despite only maintaining one original member (a feat for a ska band, actually) the horn section is tight, and the band also seem to rejoice in going all-out on tracks--the title track brings in bells as the track crescendos, and "They Will Need Music" goes out of its way to be an epic, and has some lovely piano playing too, of the jauntiest nature.

Not all the album is fantastic. The chorus to "The Daylights" is so-so (it's not the strongest opener) and a lot of the album seems to be quite regular ska-punk: good as Katz is, his specialty does not seem to be hardcore punk, and the mellowing of Dicky's voice, though good for the songs at hand, would not be good for Minor Threat covers; so expect nothing like "We Should Talk." Still, there are some straight-up anthems (including the unstoppable "Like a Shotgun") and there's some more interesting sounding tracks (the sparse "Disappearing" utilizes Katz's guitar style well as Joe Gittleman lays down some great, funky bass). On top of that, there's nothing wrong with some good old fashioned ska-punk (in my eyes, at least).

In the last track, the Bosstones announce the plan is to stick together--great! Not only do we get a chance to hear the classics played live, but they're still making damned good records.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Janszoon (July 19, 2014)

The comment in this review about Dicky having a "thicker American accent" on this album cracked me up. I think he may have lost his heavy Boston accent somewhat now that he's been in L.A. for quite a few years, but this is certainly the first time I've heard anyone imply that losing the Boston accent made anyone's accent THICKER. lol

OffspringKickAss (August 22, 2012)

First Bosstones album I ever bought. Got last year and it was fucking awesome. Not a bad song the record.

RaganYouth (February 13, 2012)

I agree with everything Skibz said. Katz is a nice enough guy but he's very vanilla.

I think the Dropkicks suffered the same way when Rick Barton left the band. It seems to be a common trend with most punk influenced bands that their guitar sound gets less "hard" and technical the more albums they put out. I can't think of many bands that went the opposite direction. Avail maybe?

Skibz777 (February 10, 2012)

BikeMordy's comment made me sad. I hate the fact that there needs to be a "Bosstones apologist". Their songwriting is still top-notch and the band is still on top of their game, but yes, the music leaves some to be desired. It's not so much the addition of Katz (I'm trying to lighten my opinion on the gentleman), but, like I mentioned earlier, it seems that they're just trying to settle into a kind of generic "Bosstones sound" to satisfy their audience expectations, as opposed to taking the commercial risks of doing harder-edged and/or non-ska stuff. On the one hand, yes, they become more consistent, but on the other, they become far less interesting....and I can't fucking believe I have to use the words "less interesting" in regards to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, of all fucking bands. Now *I* feel depressed. :(

Skibz777 (February 10, 2012)

It is ironic that I'd be harping on the departure of Nate Albert considering several of my favorite bands are a "___ left the band __ years ago, get over it!" deal, but it's not that I want him *back*, just so much as I just want a guitarist who can, say, solo or do something interesting. The guitars were always a prominent element of the MMB, and to have them practically gone, it's quite an empty void. Imagine if the horns left around 2000 and the band never replaced them, they just wrote around them. That's kind of what it feels like, just a little bit.

EchosMyron (February 10, 2012)

telegraphrocks has even worse taste than I imagined. How dare he chide everyone for their best of lists when he admits to liking this shitty band.

telegraphrocks (February 10, 2012)

And for fuck's sake, shut the fuck up about Nate. Yeah, he was good, but he left the band over TWELVE YEARS AGO!
Jesus Christ.

telegraphrocks (February 10, 2012)

Superb album. Can't say a bad thing about it.

MN_DrNick (February 10, 2012)

For the record, I called Skibz crazy because I knew he was going to do a rambling rant here.

Also, I like Katz. He gets the job done.

killtaker (February 10, 2012)

One word popped into my head when I heard this: effortless. Not in the sense that they put no effort into it but more in the sense that they are so good at this style that it seems effortless. I think the songwriting is strong and there is a light and breezy quality to this record that I really enjoy. I think it is rather perfect for a band with the longetivity of the Bosstones.

NotSteven (February 10, 2012)

I strangely had a dream last night where the chorus of "Shotgun" was playing as the Underscore during one part. And the context which I am about to give will make that all seem really lame: I was skiing. I think the song only started up around the part where I fell on my ass, or when some guy threw me over a fence to get me back on the trail, but still. Also, good record. I rank it above the other two post-Nate Albert albums.

BikeMordy (February 10, 2012)

As a long time BossTones fan and apologist, I'm just happy they're putting stuff out still. I almost view this as a different band in a way though. Like Brian Johnson AC/DC vs. Bon Scott AC/DC. Both great but not the same. It's been said a million times...but Nate Albert was just so great. The lead-in to Don't Know How To Party - I just long to hear that sound on a new album. Oh well.

I think this album is the best one since Nate left, though. Wish Dicky screamed more, but maybe the Jimmy Kimmel gig keeps him wanting to preserve his money-maker.

Anyway, this release makes me feel happy and sad at the same time. Happy because they're putting out quality material and sad because of what it could be if Nate were around.

eatdogs (February 10, 2012)

i'm glad mighty mighty bosstones are still around. i'd like to see a band i grew up with stick it out till the end with me.

mcflynnthm (February 10, 2012)

Love this record. And I like Katz a lot. That's not to say I didn't lose it when Nate came out to play with the band at Throwdown this year, though.


i-type-poorly (February 10, 2012)

Agreed with Skibz. I'm not so down on Katz, though. The horn lines feel very uninspired as well. But this album made me miss Nate way more than the last two had. There are a few good songs, but everything on here sounds like something that would have been cut from Let's Face it.

oldpunkerforever (February 10, 2012)

I Love this, they sound very fresh on here and these guys know how to make a melody that sticks in your head for days. Their most consistant album in years. Only thing keeping this from 5 stars, I miss Dickys growl on here, maybe thats the old in my oldpunker, but alas, new MMB is always a smile in my book and makes February sound like summer-oldpunker-

Skibz777 (February 10, 2012)

My second post was actually just sarcastically directed at MN_DrNick, but...whoa, re-reading my comments, I made a WAY bigger deal out of this than I meant to. Jeez, do I like to ramble.

Favoring brevity this time around, I'm not exactly certain "where the band is now". I can only assume that, if they're downplaying the hardcore elements but don't want to take the commercial risk of doing a more eclectic pop album like 'Pay Attention', then they're intentionally settling down into a...for lack of a better word, *generic* Bosstones/ska-punk sound to satiate audience expectations. I really hate to think of it like that, the band losing their ambitious streak, but I guess it does make a lot of sense business-wise, if they want to keep touring and recording: just pump out a reliable and consistent product. To that effect, having a more straightforward guitarist like Katz is fine, but I still feel that, in the hands of a more imaginative guitarist, even the most generic-sounding material could be shaped into something better.

nedsammy (February 10, 2012)

I would not in a million years say that Katz is a better guitarist than Albert, and would never say his style is better. I'm just saying he's a competent guitarist, with more of a reggae leaning than a metal one. I miss Albert madly, but I reckon Katz' style is okay for where the band is at this moment.

Skibz777 (February 10, 2012)

So your implication is possibly that Lawrence Katz is a better guitarist than Nate Albert? That his technique is more textured and experimental? That if someone listens to any of the last three MMB albums, their immediate response is going to be "wow, these guitars are just like/are better than anything they did in the '90s!"?

Okay, that sounds a bit harsh. Katz is a competent guitarist, sure, but he's just not a proper match for the Bosstones at all. His playing is too straightforward and in-the-box, and one of my favorite elements of the MMB's early works were the guitars. I can accept that Katz is different and he's obviously not *trying* to be Nate Albert, but he's just so boring. His guitars don't lead, they just sit in the background, churning out basic powerchords and upstrokes like he's playing backup to Reel Big Fish. He's done absolutely NOTHING memorable since joining the band. Maybe he throws out a riff or two here, but no one's going to argue in their right mind that they're on par with anything Albert created. Hell, even the intro to "The Impression That I Get" is more striking and memorable than Katz's contributions, and that's just basic barre chords!

The Bosstones may downplay their hardcore elements nowadays, but I don't think that should have entailed hiring a guitarist who obviously doesn't have any roots or knowledge in playing such. The Bosstones still play their old songs in concert. They still write and play songs that rock. I just think they'll never be able to rock as hard as they used to with such a weak, ineffectual guitarist. And if they're going for "laid back", well, just look at 'Pay Attention': the guitars are far more involved and commanding on just about every song than they have been in anything made during Katz's tenure.

It's starting to sound like I'm trying to wage a crusade against the guy, but I'm not. Simply, all I'm really trying to say is that I don't think he's good for the Bosstones because he's bland. REALLY bland. That's all. I still love the band more than I possibly can. I still own a pair of Dicky's shorts. I still have the tiring memories of driving 16 hours nonstop from Kentucky to Providence for Throwdown '07. The Bosstones will forever have an immeasurable sentimental significance to me for single-handedly introducing me to ska and punk as a teen. I still and always will love them...I just don't love Lawrence Katz and what he's done to the band I love.

MN_DrNick (February 10, 2012)

I really liked this album a lot. Skibz, you crazy.

Skibz777 (February 10, 2012)

Wow, I could NOT disagree more with any praise directed towards Katz. He's brought plenty of changes to the band's sound, but none of them positive: he's yet to show that he's capable of playing anything more ambitious than upstrokes and power chords, and that's what I feel has really been holding the band back from being as musically powerful as they once were, even though the songwriting is still top-notch and everyone else in the band brings their A game and then some.

I'm not expecting the MMB to still sound like they did back in the early 1990s (I'm a proud 'Pay Attention' supporter), but how can ANYONE find merit in Katz's orthodox and quite frankly DULL playing in comparison to Albert's brilliant defining style? No lead lines, no solos, no memorable riffs, no texture at ALL. There's not even any power or growl behind his playing (maybe due to low mixing? I dunno), which *almost* sucks the energy straight out of the whole album. A black fly floating in an otherwise extraordinarily delicious bowl of soup.

That's really my only complaint with the album, to be honest...though it IS a big one. Otherwise, this finally felt like the Bosstones album I'd been waiting for since 2002 (I was disappointed by 'Pin Points''s predominant emphasis on straight ska). Just a huge blast of catharsis. Tight tunes, great lyrics, high replayability, Dicky's voice still sounds great...I'll parrot basically all the praise that was mentioned above except for Lawrence Katz, the only factor keeping a great album from being potentially excellent.

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