For high-energy Mighty Mighty Bosstones, ska's hardly the limit

December 17, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

A lot of bands think that landing a recording contract with a major label is the first step down the road to Easy Street. But to hear bassist Joe Gittleman tell it, when the Mighty Mighty Bosstones linked up with the mighty, mighty Mercury records, it was less a break than a necessary evil.

"Getting a major label record deal was not something that we really wanted to do," says Gittleman, who adds that in some ways the band was perfectly happy recording for the tiny, independent Taang! label.

"Unfortunately, we had been put in a position where we had basically all quit our jobs and were now trying to tour, and we just simply weren't being paid for the records that we were selling," he says over the phone from his hometown of Boston. "In order for us to continue doing what we wanted to do -- which was tour and make records and just be the Bosstones -- we had to go somewhere else. That's why we did it."

If Gittleman seems blase about the whole star-making machinery of the modern record business, it may be because his band built its reputation not on slogans or image but on the strength of a relentlessly hyperkinetic live show. The Bosstones sound is loud, fast and aggressive, blending the brassy after-beat groove of ska with the uncompromising intensity of hard-core punk.

"I don't know where that comes from," says Gittleman of the band's sound. "I think our love for hard-core just gave us the desire to play ska at that speed." He adds that "Don't Know How to Party," the band's current album, actually finds the band playing "slower than on other records."

Needless to say, the band's sound generates enormous activity in the mosh pit. As a result, the Bosstones' adrenalized performances are widely touted as one of the most exciting live acts in alternative rock.

"We put on a good show," Gittleman agrees. "But it's exhausting. When we headline a show, we'll play for maybe an hour and 15 minutes, with an encore. I think that no one wants to see us for any longer than that. It's kind of a burning experience."

Not that Gittleman or his bandmates ever get an urge to "feel the burn" elsewhere. "There isn't a man among us who does anything even close to working out," he laughs. "It's not hard to get yourself up for an hour a day, when basically what you're doing is driving around and getting paid to drink free beer. The least you can do, aside from putting on a clean shirt and maybe a plaid jacket, is to put on a good show for people."

Plaid, by the way, seems to be an essential part of the Bosstones' dress code. On stage, these guys wear more of the stuff than a Highland bagpipe band -- plaid jackets, plaid pants, plaid ties, even a plaid fez (though Gittleman says the hat mysteriously disappeared not long ago).

Gittleman says that the whole plaid thing is meant as a mirror of the band's diversity. "Plaid is made up of a lot of different things and colors," he explains. "And that's our musical philosophy, in that there's no reason to call yourself only one thing. We don't zTC want to be pigeonholed, basically. We have no problem mixing styles. So musically, we're very plaid.

"But honestly, the whole thing started sort of as a joke," he adds. "Years and years ago, when we were not so successful, people weren't coming to see us -- and those who were looked at us with disdain, almost. We were not musically proficient. We wanted to offend people's sense of sight as well as sound, so we started packing plaid."

2& The rest, as they say, is history.

Mighty Mighty Bosstones

When: Tonight at 8

Where: Hammerjacks, 1101 S. Howard St.

Tickets: $12.50

Call: (410) 752-3302 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets

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