When I heard that the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were taking a hiatus in 2003, I was pretty bummed. They had been one of the first ska bands I got really excited about and I had loved just about everything they put out. Even had its moments. A few years later, my disappointment was lifted when they announced that they were coming back. I was fortunate enough to catch them at Riot Fest last year and they managed to prove that they hadn't lost a single bit of what made them great. There were never many doubts, but four years is a long time for a band to be out of commission.
Pin Points and Gin Joints is the culmination of what fans have been hoping for over the last seven years since Jackknife to a Swan was released. The Bosstones are back in full swing with this record. The last few releases prior had been more rock-oriented with some horns thrown over to give them a ska feeling. This time around, the upstrokes are back and will have fans skanking in the pit all over again. This is easily one of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' strongest and well-thought out releases and reflects the fact that they spent eight months writing and recording it.
The opening five tracks demonstrate some of the best of what the Bosstones can do. In fact, it’s probably one of the strongest openings to an album to come out this year. There is this great buildup over these songs leading up to the highlight, "Too Many Stars." Not only is this the strongest track on the album, but definitely one of the best songs they have ever written. What starts out as a pair of the slower and more personal tracks, "Your Life" and "I Wrote It," serve as a stellar and welcome break in the momentum. The break does not last long as each of the subsequent offerings bring it right back, stronger and stronger, until we hit "Death Valley Vipers" and "The Bricklayer’s Story." The last track, "A Pretty Sad Excuse," is a great demonstration that ska songs don’t need to be limited to three minutes to be impressive.
One of my favorite things about any Bosstones release is Dicky Barrett’s ability to craft an amazing fluidity in his lyrics. The word choice on “Pin Points” feels so deliberate and never forced. The words in "Too Many Stars" flow like a river over the bouncing ska guitar. I was slightly skeptical of "I Wrote It" at first, based on the subject matter. However, Barrett manages to make something as personally interesting as the process of writing a song interesting to the listener.
Barrett’s gruff and gravelly voice is nothing short of perfect for the music the band writes and is further showcased this time around. Tracks like "Wasted Summer" and "It Will Be" are listened to subsequent times around with great anticipation just to hear Barrett belt out “That’s the way it goes!” or “It will be electric again!” and giving the end that sustain he does so well.
Every single member comes out to shine on “Pin Points.” There are horns and saxophones blaring in every song. The guitars tear through ska riffs and transition between that and heavy like nothing. Gittleman makes his bass presence very well known with some great walks up and down the neck. I even imagine manager/dancer/Bosstone Ben Carr skanking around the studio during the recording process. I could go into more detail or give specific examples, but one listen to any track on this record will do so much more than words ever could.
Just when I thought 2009 had delivered every big release it had to offer, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones drop this bombshell. Every single track is a winner and would be welcome in any set list. While no new ground is broken with this record, Pin Points and Gin Joints serves to remind the world that the Bosstones are back and haven’t lost a beat.