“Brian Kagen hurt himself, he needs Gee-off to come to the side of the stage…Brian Kagen hurt himself…‘cause I know. Pass this around.” –Dicky Barrett (talking to the crowd)
Part two in my ongoing series: Ska-Core, the Devil, and More
One day, my friend Anna (who first introduced me to Let’s Face It and who, for a time, was my Bosstones partner in crime) called me up. She’d found a Bosstones album for only $7 and had bought it (this is before we knew what EPs were). So the first time I heard the Ska-Core, the Devil, and More EP, it was over the phone.
We both agreed that “Someday I Suppose” was an excellent song. To this day, it’s probably one of my favorites (and, after “Impression,” probably the song that the most people are familiar with). This song was one of the earlier examples (in terms of me hearing it, not in terms of him writing it) of Dicky’s ability to play with words and phonemes.
Dicky has said in interviews that Ska-Core, because it was the Bosstones’ major label debut, was more of a message to the people they were working with than a piece of music for the fans. They covered a bunch of 80s hardcore and metal songs, partly to snub Curtis Casella (who owns Taang! Records, the label the Bosstones had just departed from), and partly to confuse the executives at Mercury. So the next song I heard was “Think Again,” originally a Minor Threat song. Neither me nor Anna—who liked the Offspring and Blink-182, and so had more of a tolerance for punk guitars—liked it. We didn’t know it was a cover at the time.
Next up is “Lights Out.” I don’t think we even listened to the entire song. By this time, we were wondering what had happened to the happy, saxophone-laden, upbeat band that Let’s Face It had introduced us to.
I’m not even going to get into “Police Beat.” I mean, can you imagine a couple of 15-year-old middle class suburban white girls possibly relating to such a song? “Police beat me out of the crowd/Doesn’t make a difference if we’re allowed/There’s no questions asked/They just want to kick my ass…” Props to the Bosstones for making a siren noise out of a guitar, though.
It’s a little embarrassing to admit just how little I knew about music and its history when I was 15. Like I said before, my parents had wide tastes, but then other things were completely left out—and because we didn’t have MTV and because my mom mostly listened to NPR, there wasn’t a whole lot of chances to introduce me to new stuff. “Simmer Down” was a song me and Anna really liked, but I don’t think either of us knew at the time it was a Bob Marley cover. Regardless, this EP is probably around the time I started to internalize just how much range the Bosstones had, in terms of music they liked and styles they would play. I redoubled my efforts to find out more about them and the music they liked, though I don’t think Ska-Core directly inspired me to go out and buy any of the covered artists.
The last songs on the EP are a live recording of two songs, “Drugs & Kittens” and “I’ll Drink to That.” “Drugs and Kittens” is a song (originally called “Drunks and Children” that the Bosstones have recorded I think three times, calling it something different every time. It’s a staple of their live set). I don’t remember how I felt about these songs when I heard them. I listen to them now, and they’re amazing, the drums and the horns are just clicking along, with major energy. I could dance to this in my living room. Hell, I could dance to this right now.
Man. I got nothing to say about these tracks. They’re just so good and so enjoyable, I can sit and listen to them and not do anything else. Of course, I’ve seen the Bosstones so many times that listening to tracks like this brings me back to all those shows, to the sweat and the smell and the lights and the noise and the people being all crazy.
Oh, this EP also had a recording of the correct Bosstones chant which has a half beat rest between the second “Mighty” and “Bosstones.” Between when the Bosstones went on hiatus and when they came back, the fans seem to have forgotten this chant, which is a damn shame.
This EP also has the probably now-almost-nonexistent “hidden track” after about 25 minutes of silence—a recording of “Howwhywuz Howwhyam” which, now that I am listening to it, I actually can’t identify if it’s live or studio. Almost certainly live, as if there were two studio versions of this song I think I would be aware, but the quality (particularly of the horns) is pretty high. Though Dicky sounds farther away than he normally would. Hidden tracks are one of the reasons I was, then, grateful for cassette tapes: I put the whole Ska-Core EP on a cassette, sans silence, so I didn’t have to bother with it. Though I also listened to the CD version so many times that I could time the scrub forward feature down to the second.
Okay. Time’s up. Next: Devil’s Night Out.
Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Ska-Core, the Devil, & More. Mercury Records, 1994. Status: out of print.