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The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Medium Rare (Cover Artwork)

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: Medium RareMedium Rare (2007)
Big Rig

Reviewer Rating: 3
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Contributed by: likeaparasitelikeaparasite
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Medium Rare, released in 2007, was the first album by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in five years. Its release coincided with their reunion after going on hiatus in 2003, following the 2002 release of A Jacknife to a Swan. Instead of the "comeback" album that many fans (including myself) were hoping f.
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Medium Rare, released in 2007, was the first album by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in five years. Its release coincided with their reunion after going on hiatus in 2003, following the 2002 release of A Jacknife to a Swan. Instead of the "comeback" album that many fans (including myself) were hoping for, it was a collection of B-sides and three new songs.

Those who have all of their albums know that since Let's Face It, the band's music has been mostly straightforward ska, reggae and rock (and one blues tune), unlike the eclectic fusions of those genres with punk, hardcore and metal on their first few albums. The other significant change in their music over the years has been in perspective. On the earlier Bosstones albums, the songs would often pulsate with aggressive conviction. It was fast, loud and really captured what it was like to be young, growing up and discovering all the joys and disappointments of life. Since Pay Attention, however, the perspective of their music seems to have shifted from one of youthful exhuberence to world-weary wisdom and nostalgia. I guess that was inevitable as they got older.

The songs on Medium Rare continue in this tradition, with the exception of "This List." As a spirited criticism of drafting sung over a hard and loud melody, it's a bit of a throwback to the passionate anthems of their younger days. It's a respectable attempt to recapture some of the energy and power of their earlier songs, but I don't think it quite works. What sinks it for me is how it sounds like this weird hybrid of the cleaner late `90s / early 2000s Bosstones production and the pre-`97 more scattered/chaotic instrumental arrangement. The vocals are a problem, too. I won't be as mean as the allmusic reviewer who, in reviewing this album, said it proves that Dicky Barrett's voice "is pretty close to shot," but I can't deny that he had a point. I think this song proves that after years of doing it better than just about anybody else in the music business, he can't quite "growl" like he used to.

The other new tracks feel much more natural and enjoyable to me. They are the kinder, gentler post-2000 Bosstones at their best, especially the awkwardly titled (only because it's about not worrying about him, rather than telling him not to worry) "Don't Worry Desmond Dekker." Looking back on a friendship that deteriorated over time but remains fondly remembered and cherished through a record collection and happy memories, it reminds me of "The Impression That I Get." Like their most successful single, it reflects on a sad experience, but with a positive attitude and catchy horn lines. "The One with the Woes All Over It" is a similarly delightful song, again reflecting on what they've learned from past experience and how the good and bad of it left them both worse for the wear and better for it.

The B-sides aren't quite as consistent. I find a lot of them, like "The Meaning," "So Many Ways" and "Is It?" rather bland and forgettable, despite their thoughtful lyrics. Apparently a fair amount of Bosstones fans have affection for "Chocolate Pudding," but with its unusual structure and goofy vocals, it's too silly for me. I find "Katie" to be the most likable of the B-sides that I'm not too thrilled about, but at times both it and "To California" get a little too "cutesy" for my tastes. The B-sides that I like in spite of their cuteness are "Who's Foolin' Who?", "A Reason to Toast," "This Time of Year" and "Favorite Records." I prefer the less-polished, old version of "Who's Foolin' Who?" from the Mashin' Up the Nation compilation because it had a cool bit of keyboard in it, but this simpler, clearer version is good too. It maintains the earlier's charm and keeps its wonderfully earnest advice lyrics. "A Reason to Toast" is also altered a bit from its origins on a split with Madcap, but not enough to hurt its appeal as a low-key drinking song. "This Time of Year" is probably the corniest song on the album with its message of "Christmas time is great!" and its "Jingle Bells" horn solo, but I can't help but smile at the innocent cheerfulness of the song, even if it does show the Bosstones at their tamest.

"Favorite Records" is my favourite B-side on the album. It's also my favourite tribute to the love of music since "Thank You" by Descendents, with its almost too precious, yet touching lyrics:

Sweet sweet sounds that you cut will last / [...] / I dropped a needle on a track and I was able to tough it through a very checkered past / [...] / Thank you for the records, put them on, they go round and round and round and round again / I just love the sound the sound the sound the sound of them."
If, like me, you got into a lot of your favourite bands largely because you were moved by how much their lyrics empathized with you, you can relate to this song. It's a beautifully warmhearted tribute to all the bands who made music that had a positive effect on peoples' lives. Coincidentally, this song is written by the band who did that the most for me. Although the vocals, instrumentation and lyrics of their music have been watered down in the twilight years of their career, the band still has a uniquely clever way with words and an admirably well-intentioned spirit in the message of their music.

For a while, it looked like this would be "the last hurrah" for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but they've recently announced that "nuh-uh [we'll] do it again!", and that's cause for celebration. Like this album, their upcoming full-length probably won't pack the punch of their earlier releases, but I'm still glad it's on the way. Don't lose your wallets.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Pin Points and Gin JointsThe Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Question the AnswersThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimOperation Ivy - Operation IvyNothington - Roads, Bridges and RuinsLucero - 1372 Overton ParkJawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge TherapyAgainst Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityThe Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Pay AttentionTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Coming Out of Their Shells

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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.
jacknife737 (December 1, 2008)

The most disappointing omission for me was "Storm Hit"; i love that song.

paulrulzdood (December 1, 2008)

"don't worry desmond dekker" is fucking phenomenal, one of their best songs ever.

"the one with the woes all over it"is also quite good.

I dig "the list" but it's the weakest of the 3 new song IMHO. i like the message, but Dickies vocal delivery during the verses is kind of strained and musically it's not as interesting as the other new songs, but nice attempt at making a straight forward rocker.

out of the b-sides "the meaning" and "favorite records" are certainly my favorites, how these were not considered amongst the 16 best songs from the Pay Attention sessions is mind-boggling.

out of the rest, I really like "this time of year" and "katie".

"chocolate pudding", "to california", "is it" and "don't be fooled" (or whatever it's exact title is) just do nothing for me and are obviously b-sides for a reason, they're either just corny, flat, mediocre chorus or all 3.

overall, this is a kick ass b-sides album as is the Rancid one that came out around the same time.

Yossarian (November 29, 2008)

Hence it being B-sides too, songs that didn't make album cuts...How We Got Away would have fit well, and At It Again is one of my favorite MMB songs ever.

likeaparasite (November 29, 2008)

I agree it's too bad they couldn't get every single one of their B-sides on this comp. "Wake Up Call" does indeed rule, but I don't think it would have fit with the other songs. It's probably their hardest song, and would have disrupted the flow of the CD's generally mellow vibe. I think "Providence Is..." is not just their best B-side, but one of their best songs period. And I hope nobody thinks based on this review that I have anything against MMB. They are my favourite band, I love them, and I have all of their albums. I just think this one isn't as consistent or powerful as their other work. It's good, but not great, hence the rating.

Yossarian (November 29, 2008)

Pricey123 I thought the same when I first read the tracklist, but Joe G. posted on their myspace that because of legal matters they couldn't put certain songs on this record, songs like Wake Up Call and Detroit Rock City.

jacknife737 (November 29, 2008)

Safe to say i'm not really stoked on this review.

Love this album.

3pidemiC (November 29, 2008)

"The Meaning" is anything but bland.

telegraphrocks (November 29, 2008)

Only dicks don't like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones..... dick.

niveK82 (November 29, 2008)

One of my top ten of the year.

This came out in '07

pricey123 (November 29, 2008)

i enjoyed the album, although there are a few tracks that are bland. theres so many more b-sides and rare stuff missing though. wake up call should've definately been on this, that song is immense

MN_punkmaster-skaman (November 29, 2008)

Rating is for the album, not review.

A b-sides album that doesn't feel or sound like one. One of my top ten of the year.

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