The End of a Ska Punk Era-The Dissolution of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones


DJ Delirium

I hadn’t thought of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones for nearly 20 years, and then an article popped into my news feed, it simply read, “The Mighty Mighty Bosstones Have Broken Up.” While my first reaction was what in Google’s algorithm made it think that this story would be of interest to me, I almost as quickly thanked the algorithm gods for sending me the story, because it made me remember how important the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were in shaping my musical future. And for that, a special obituary–nay ode–to the band is necessary.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is the progenitor of ska punk. The genre quickly rose to fame in the early 1990s and dropped out of fashion almost a decade later. During its heyday, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and other famous ska punk bands, like Sublime and No Doubt topped the charts, sold out musical festivals, and won awards. But even though Sublime ended with the tragic death of its lead singer Bradley Nowell, and No Doubt ended when lead singer Gwen Stefani went solo, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones stayed together making music. They released 11 studio albums, with their most recent in 2021. But without any bands doing ska punk like they did, the genre is likely to die.

Most people probably remember the Mighty Mighty Bosstones from their mega hit, “The Impression that I get,” from 1997. The song topped all the charts that year and reached number 1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart. The song is infectious. It epitomizes ska punk like no other. It starts with bright saxophones and combines rough and raw punk vocals to seamlessly define the genre. It was so popular, in fact, that the song pervaded all aspects of life. At school when I was kid, my friends and I would sing the song and pretend we were like the singers in the music video. We perfected the neo-greaser look the band members rocked, with slicked back hair and a snarled lip, as we belted out the words.

“The Impression that I get,” which appeared on their 5th studio album Let’s Face It was not their first brush with fame. Two years prior to the album’s release, they were featured in the now cult classic film Clueless as the band playing at the “oh so cliche” high school prom scene. But even for those who may not have remembered that it was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in that movie, their catchy sound certainly is unmistakable, and emblematic of their status as the reigning kings of ska punk.

When I read about their breakup, sure I remembered Clueless and the fond memories of singing “The Impression that I get” in school, but the sadness of the band’s breakup has a more personal connection for me than just these few fleeting memories. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones was the first time I understood the beauty of live music and felt its power to transform.

Several years after “The Impression that I get” was released, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were set to play at the Vans Warped Tour. For me, the Vans Warped Tour represented a place where I could listen to all the hardcore punk music I wanted. I didn’t even mind the sweltering southern California summer sun. I wore all of my spiked leather jewelry, my Dickies, my chucks, and my disposable camera, which I snuck in my bra. In my mind I was the coolest thing ever, and there solely to listen to punk. The more obscure and weird the name of the band, the better. I wanted to watch people mosh, I wanted to crowd surf, I wanted to get visceral. The music was merely the platform where I could fully transform into my raging punk self.

Outside of the music venue I was a studious kid with usual teen worries. But the Vans Warped Tour was my escape, my place to feel. Much to my disappointment, however, I quickly realized that punk bands were noisy and hard to connect with. I felt disconnected. Morose and confused, the day seemed to drag on. I was hot and sweaty. The food was expensive. I felt isolated. And that was when I heard the unmistakable brassy saxophone of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones blaring from a nearby stage. Their music sent a tingling through my body. The music was vibrant, loud, and passionate. Not knowing what band was making such entrancing music, I was compelled to head to the stage, I had to see the band. I arrived at the end of their first song and was transfixed through the rest of their set. Even though it was nearly five years since their big hit, and they had not been able to recapture that same kind of success, the band members were thriving. They were infusing their souls into their music and it was emanating straight to my soul. For those 30-ish minutes, I understood music.

I thought I loved music, but after their set, I knew what loving music meant. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones gave me a high that I have chased ever since (and yes, I have found it with other bands, but one always remembers their first). And even though ska-punk has faded, their end really marks the conclusion of a chapter in my life, but one I am glad to have visited. So thank you Google algorithm for letting me remember the gift the Mighty Mighty Bosstones gave me–an everlasting love of music.