Considering the sizable overlap between its tendencies and what I usually respond to most in music, it’s kind of surprising I’m not big into ska. The genre tends to produce short, infectious ditties covering a range of topics from the personal to the political, and albums made in this style tend to be over and done with in under forty minutes. Meanwhile, I love albums that get right to the damn point and GTFO, and who doesn’t love a good dumb dose of punk? It’s all enough to make my indifference towards this type of music a puzzle even to myself, and giving The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’s breakout fifth album, 1997’s Let’s Face It, a few spins helped decode the manner.
The problem, as it turns out, has nothing to do with the bands or songs or music in the genre itself but with the tidal wave of its scene that makes engaging with the genre an arduous task. Ska’s lionization of brevity and energy is refreshing in the short term, but listening to a whole bunch of it means listening to the horns hit the same way in the same sections of so many songs and little guitar riffs cut the same way and vocalists travel down virtually the same path. A little under half of the songs on Let’s Face It could be mistaken for each other, and that makes me fearful of giving more ska a chance. There’s an annual festival in Victoria British Columbia every year called The Victoria Ska Festival featuring dozens of ska and reggae bands, and more power to you if that sounds amazing but that just sounds like the greatest tangible manifestation of my own personal Hell.
This isn’t to say that I can’t enjoy it in short bursts, though, and so I enjoyed much of Let’s Face It. There’s not much complicated work here, the lyrics aren’t deep or anything (smash single “The Impression That I Get” is about as heady as it gets, and it’s a whole song about how Dicky Barrett could probably knock a motherfucker through a wall if he really had to (also be humble)), and it won’t change anyone’s mind about the merits of ska. It’s just dumb fun throughout, stuff to dance and smash shit to, and in this dumb world where ska festivals exist, sometimes that just hits the spot.VERDICT: OWN
I thought I'd have more to say about this one, but going into further detail felt all sorts of wrong. Turns out there's not much to say about a band whose most memorable line is "That evil motherfucker screamed "Burn this place down"!". Fortunately, this column will be getting a breath of fresh air for the month of November as the rest of the crew steps in while I engage with National Novel Writing Month. Please forgive us if some columns are late or, um, absent—it's going to be a busy month for all of us.
Read past editions of Own It or Disown It.