As much as I’d love to start this review with a funny anecdote connecting me to the Bosstones in any way, sadly, I have none. So I’m gonna plough on and get to the point, hopefully saving you a couple of minutes of your life and giving you fresh motivation to read the review and argue below.
This is the Bosstones' fifth album, and was released a good three years after Question The Answers. In this gap they ditched the roughness of their recordings, lost a bassist, softened a growl and gained the same bassist back. This resulted in a clean, catchy and platinum masterpiece.
I reckon this album was the make or break album for the Bosstones, at least in terms of being on a major label. Before this album they seemed to be a band that was on a thin rope, in severe danger of dropping of the radar, in a mainstream audience's eyes. After, they became million-selling playas, before releasing the substandard Pay Attention. It's no surprise this is the album that smashed the Bosstones into popular ville. It's their poppiest, catchiest, friendliest and most accessible album, and also features "that" song. The first single to be released of this album was "The Impression That I Get," an extreme contender for "the song that sticks in your head FOREVER" award.
The album also loses the "party" edge of past albums. No longer does it sound like the songs have been recorded in a bar surrounded by friends, but the slick production gives me the image of a cold, metal recording room, of which you need a key card to access and a pass to speak to the band. And of course, this was the first album where Dicky's trademark growl really began to fade. Nevertheless, these songs are still extremely well-written and structured, breaching topics as diverse as intolerance of racists ("Let's Face It"), alcoholism ("Another Drinkin' Song") and oil that is royal ("Royal Oil"). And, despite the production and obvious successes at making it sound catchy, most of these songs contain a serious message that few bands can put across in such an accessible way. Lyrics such as "He didn't hit me for a home, or hit me up 'cause he was cold, he was addicted to drugs, and I could see that in his eyes" still deliver a potent story of how Dicky was beaten up by a drug user for a fix, but how he still believes that the user needed more help than he did. Truly great songwriting.
Despite these small flaws, the album still manages to maintain the Bosstones' record of never putting out a bad album, and serves as another constant reminder of how this band is still the best ska band ever. The plaid suits only sweeten the deal.