The mighty mighty difference between the Bosstones' live and studio acts

February 06, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

As singer Dicky Barrett sees it, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones understand the difference between what they do live and what they can put on an album. Onstage, the Boston-based octet is pure adrenalin, a swirl of heavy guitar, braying horns and giddy afterbeats that sucks the audience in like a cyclone. But the group's albums, though certainly as good as almost any other modern ska combo, never came across as crazed as the band's club shows.

How could they be? asks Barrett. "Early on, people were like, 'Oh, they're a great live band, but they can't do it on record,' " Barrett says from a tour stop in Vermont. "But it can't be done. I mean, you can't record a roomful of kids losing their minds. How can you properly get an 18-year-old kid who goes out of his head, jumps up on stage, knocks into our horn section, then flips into the audience for the first time in his life? You can't. You see that. That's a very visual thing, and the Bosstones are a visual thing live.

"My philosophy is that anybody that can re-create their live show on a record or CD is a [lousy] live band," he adds, laughing. "But once you know you can't do that, you're free to do whatever you want in the studio."

Barrett and the Bosstones took that philosophy to heart while recording "Let's Face It," the band's soon-to-be-released fifth album. "We're slowly starting to be able to tame the beast," he says of the album's lean, tuneful sound. "We want it to be just as mean and monstrous a beast as it always was, but we want to know how to control it a little more. Instead of everything into the pot, we just kind of seasoned the pot and got a little more grasp on it.

"Ultimately, when you get to the end of it, [it's about] trying to please the eight of us. And when the eight of us start saying, 'Yeah, it's good,' then we start praying that other people will enjoy it. If they don't, what can you do? But if you can make yourself happy, that's step No. 1 on whatever kind of journey it is that you happen to be on."

One part of the journey Barrett isn't especially enjoying, however, is the trendiness that ska currently enjoys. Mention that, with No Doubt at the top of the charts, a lot of industry folk believe ska is the Next Big Thing, and Barrett practically gags. "Euuucch, that's gross," he says. "I don't want it to be considered a trend. It's a passion.

"I've loved it since I was 13 years old, when I first found out about it, and for it all of a sudden to be a trend, it kind of scares me. I think it should be heard, I think it's worthwhile, but I don't want it to be like grunge or even to be considered that.

"Maybe I'm overprotective of this thing called ska," he continues. "I certainly don't own it, nor do I think I'm -- you know. If the world knows more about ska because the Bosstones exist, that's a good thing. Our attitude with the Bosstones is 'Come one, Come all.' It's not a snob club. But it was once all mine." He laughs. "Maybe I'm selfish, but it used to just be mine. And at that time I ran around, saying 'Why doesn't everybody know about this?' So be careful what you wish for."

Still, so long as the Bosstones are able to keep touring, they don't worry much about pop music trends. "We like to tour," says Barrett. "We always tour, we always play. We took our first three weeks off in as long as I can remember, eight years or something. And after a week, I didn't know what to do with myself. So we tour, tour, tour, and we're not touring for albums. If we are, then we're still touring for the first one."

Mighty Mighty Bosstones

When: Saturday, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.)

Where: Bohager's

Tickets: $15 (all ages)

Call: (410) 563-7220 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets

Sundial: To hear excerpts from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' latest release, "Question the Answers," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the code 6115. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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