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Reviewed by Red Rocker
Steering clear of the ultra-familiar past material, the Bosstones succeed in making Medium Rare a very worthy exercise, even for the ardent fan. “So Many Ways” and “Who’s Fooling Who?” are vintage Bosstones, culled from the Let’s Face It sessions in 1997. Because that album stands as one of their best ever, it was bound to have a few decent cuts hit the studio floor. Signature horn-blowing nuggets like “Katie” (unreleased from Jackknife) and “The Meaning” (B-side from 2000’s Pay Attention) shine bright, while “This Time of Year” rips like the early hardcore punk stuff that helped the Bosstones carve out their unmistakable place in ska history.
The new songs are plenty sturdy, too. “This List” opens the album with a rugged Joe Gittleman “the bass fiddleman” line that ushers in as flamboyant and classic a Bosstones track as we’ve enjoyed in years. Quirky but effective, “Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker” pays homage to the Jamaican reggae singer who passed away in 2006, and “The One with the Woes All over It” might simply be the best song on the album. In all, there are very few missteps on Medium Rare. It’s hard to call any collection of past work essential, but for a band who disappeared prematurely, with so much still to offer a splintered ska-core genre, we needed this album from Dicky Barrett and his nattily-plaid brothers. Having gigged the annual Hometown Throwdown at Boston’s famous Middle East club just before the New Year, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones have definitely left the door open for mightier things to come.