"I'm your fucked-up dance instructor. You're here for your lesson. So dance." Thus demands Mighty Mighty Bosstones frontman Dicky Barrett on "High School Dance," the most convincingly rocking track on Pay Attention, the band's latest full-length stab at ska-core perfection. It's not a bad little album, actually; it's loaded with pop hooks, guitar swoops, and arena-rock payoff choruses. But, as usual, the 'Tones are just using it as an excuse to go out on tour. The seven-man Boston collective belongs on stage, riling up a frothing, moshing audience with their ska-optimism-to-punk-rage dynamic. Decked out in natty suits, the Bosstones pull all the elements together: Barrett's guttural howl, the expert slow/fast/soft/loud juggling of the rhythm section, the melodic horn section, and the guy who doesn't do anything but dance. The sheer viscosity and energy of the live set powered the Bosstones long before mainstream radio caught on (with 1997's ubiquitous "The Impression That I Get"), and it will continue to support them long after their high media profile blows over. Though their songwriting continues to shine on newer tracks such as "High School Dance," the "Impression"-esque "So Sad to Say," and the Afro-Cuban shuffle of "She Just Happened," Pay Attention is a bit stiff and banal. So don't expect too many more radio hits -- but if it's manic energy, expert showmanship, and a truly fan-friendly attitude you're after, just check in with the fucked-up dance instructor and do what he says.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.