Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 29: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "The Impression That I Get"

Artist: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Song: "The Impression That I Get"
Album: Let's Face It
Year: 1997

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Though there are a number of odd instances that occur regularly in the world of music, one of the most inexplicable is that of fans getting frustrated when their favorite band finds commercial success.  Regardless of what band members might say in public to keep their image intact, the "point" of making music is to bring it to the masses, and if a band has a great sound and real talent, one should not be surprised when this happens.  Yet within the world of so-called "indie" rock and the punk genres and and its offshoots, this seems to happen quite often, and the term "sell out" is thrown around with reckless abandon.  Even when this term is not used, there are countless examples of a band releasing a song that somes commercial success, and the song forever carrying the "poser" label with it, regardless of the quality of the song in question.  While there are many easy examples, few make as little sense as the success of one of the key bands in ska and the ska-metal sound: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  Largely responsible for the blueprint of the ska resurgence of the 1990's, few bands even come close in equaling the sound and energy that The Bosstones deploy on nearly every one of their songs.  After spending the better part of a decade honing their sound, the band released their most complete album in the form of 1997's Let's Face It, and the rest of the world was introduced to their brilliant brand of musical genius.  Unquestionably their most well known song, but similarly their strongest musical effort and completely representative of their sound, there are few songs that are as a catchy and truly fun as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' 1997 single, "The Impression That I Get."

The band wastes no time in setting the tone on "The Impression That I Get," as it opens with a speedy, bright signature-ska style guitar riff from Nate Albert, and this sets both the tone as well as the tempo that runs throughout the entire song.  Quite literally, the entire band drops in at the same time a few moments later, and the horn trio deploys what is unquestionably one of the most catchy and authentic sounding riffs ever recorded.  Comprised of the saxophones of Tim "Johnny Vegas" Burton and Kevin Lenear, along with trombonist Dennis Brockenborough, it is within the sound of the horns that the soul and spirit of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones lives.  While the band certainly made inroads with their ska-metal hybrid, there is no question that this more traditional ska sound represents their true musical roots, as they are clearly more a two-tone band than they were a metal offshoot.  "The Impression That I Get" is also without question the bands' most complete sounding song, and this should be expected, as the band spent nearly three years working on Let's Face It.  During this time, the band managed to find a way to mix their high-energy ska sound with unforgettable, heavier choral sections, and it is this combination that drive "The Impression That I Get" up the charts.  Though many longtime fans dismissed the song due to its success, one cannot deny the irresistible sound that the musicians strong deploy throughout the track, and it is why more than a decade later, it retains its fresh and upbeat mood.

Though the music on "The Impression That I Get" may have appeared to be more two-tone in nature, the more "aggro" or metal based sound can still be heard within one of the most unmistakable voices in music history: Dicky Barrett.  With his gruff growl, there is simply no other singer that even remotely compares to Barrett, and "The Impression That I Get" highlights every aspect that makes his sound so fantastic.  From the almost spoken verses to the screams that serve as the bridge to the choruses, Barrett has rarely sounded as comfortable or as perfect as he does here, and there is not a moment where is vocals seem out of place or contrived, turning the song into one of the greatest "sing alongs" of the entire decade.  Much like the music, Barrett's voice has an unwavering, upbeat feel, and this once again points to the two-tone influence, and there is a great authenticity that can be felt with every word he sings.  It is within the lyrics that The Mighty Mighty Bosstones take another step from their previous work, as "The Impression That I Get" is a far deeper lyric and idea than their more well-known "good times, reckless party" themes that ran throughout their previous albums.  At times, Barrett seems to almost bring a confessional tone, as he speaks of the fears of his future that everyone has felt.  While every line of the song is perfectly constructed, the entire theme can be summed up when Barrett states, "...I'm not a coward, I've just never been tested...I'd like to think that if I was, I would pass..."  Combining thought-provoking lyrics with the strangely mesmerizing voice of Dicky Barrett, it is not surprising that "The Impression That I Get" became such a massive hit.

Due to all of these musical elements working as they did, "The Impression That I Get" shot up to the top of the charts, and since then, the song has been featured in a number of movies, video games, and other forms of media.  While many fans that claim to be "true" fans label this as a "sell out," the fact of the matter is, "The Impression That I Get" is an extraordinary piece of music, and it exposed the band to many new people that may have never heard their brilliant brand of ska.  It is this disconnect of fans that remains one of the most puzzling regular occurrences in music, as so-called "dedicated" fans seem to take it as offensive when the general public "discover" the greatness in a band they've been listening to for years.  In the case of "The Impression That I Get," it is inevitable that the song was going to be a massive success, as The Bosstones crafted one of the most perfect songs in history, and with their sound and mood, it was only a matter of time before "the masses" found out.  At its core, the song boasts one of the most unforgettable and irresistible horn lines ever composed, and the trademark ska-style on guitar highlights this fantastic progression even more.  Capped off by the signature sound of Dicky Barrett and perhaps the greatest lyric in the bands history, the song remains just as strong and enjoyable today, proving the unsurpassed perfection one finds in The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' 1997 single, "The Impression That I Get."

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