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The Magic of Youth

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

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Album Review

This is the second independent release from Boston's skacore giants since their return from a multi-year hiatus in the mid-2000s, and while it offers no surprises, The Magic of Youth still yields plenty of satisfaction. It may seem strange to categorize an album of ska-tinged heavy metal as "old school," but the Bosstones have been working together for a quarter of a century now, and they continue to perfect what has become a well-established musical recipe: take enormous guitars, elegant horn charts, sudden shifts from face-melting metal to spare and galloping proto-reggae backbeats, and frontman Dicky Barrett's whiskey-voiced roar, and then blend and alternate them by turns. Over the years the band has added sharper and sharper melodic hooks to the mix, and if there's nothing here to quite match the ear worms of "The Impression That I Get" or "The Rascal King," there are still plenty of fine shoutalong choruses: "Like a Shotgun" is one good example, and "They Will Need Music" combines a glorious ascending horn part, a skanking verse arrangement, and an anthemic, fist-pumping chorus to great effect. Elsewhere the band pays subtle tribute to the Clash ("The Upper Hand") and to the unique New England sport of candlepin bowling ("The Ballad of Candlepin Paul"). After 25 years, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones remain pretty much the best at what they do, and what they do remains lots and lots of fun.

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Formed: 1985 in Boston, MA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A great deal of the groundwork for the mid- to late-'90s explosion of ska and ska-metal was laid by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who were one of the first bands to cross high-energy ska with hardcore punk and heavy metal and who also helped shift its tone toward testosterone-filled party music. The Bosstones built up a devoted cult following throughout their career, but their level of commercial success never quite matched that of more pop-oriented third wave ska bands, like No Doubt and...
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