Review Summary: 1994's Question the Answers is an excellent album that is more focused and better produced then earlier albums and is worth a listen, even if you dislike ska punk.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones earlier work was very fast and very heavy, which led to them being labeled "ska-core." The plaid suited Boston based band were very influential to the later popular ska punk bands of the 90's, and although their appearance in the the 1995 movie "Clueless" and their popular "The Impression That I Get" single of 1997 helped in getting them noticed, the Bosstones just never got off as much as other groups. Despite this, the band has a large following that still results in sold out live shows and several artists citing them as an influence.
1994's Question the Answers is arguably the Bosstones at their finest. Compared to their 3 prior albums, this album is much better produced. It is also noticably more focused, with less emphasis on fast ska riffs and screaming. There is more balance in the playing, and the horns mix perfectly with the guitar and drums, which was a common criticism of the Bosstones earlier work that contained out of place horn work in some songs. Many fans will claim that's what made them great, but with this album, they successfully satisfied both arguing sides.
The album opens with "Kinder Words", which is honestly one of the best openers to any album ever. It starts out with a minute of guitar buzzing noise and a simple drum beat, and then kicks into a fast ska riff. It sounds similar to their early work, but the improved singing of frontman Dicky Barret and more focused playing makes it all the more different. The catchy chorus makes this the perfect skanking anthem for the Bosstones.
The rest of the album is fairly varied with its style. Songs like "365 Days" and "We Should Talk" are angry sounding ska-core laced songs that are very similar to Devil's Night Out era. The cookie monster sounding voice of Barret is what seems to makes them this way. On the other hand, songs like "Toxic Toast" and "A Dollar and a Dream" are smooth, jazzy numbers that makes the listener feel relaxed. "A Sad Silence" goes from a chilled reggae song with horns to heavy distorted power chords which is a signature of ska punk.
Perhaps the most appealing factor to this album (and the band overall) is the horn work. The Saxaphone, trumpet and trombone work very well with punk rock, and this album proves that. "Pictures to Prove It" alone will make any skeptic of horns going with rock easily change their mind, even if this song is the most basic example of the genre. "Jump Through Hoops" and "Dogs and Chaplain" are prime examples of the excellent horn work. "Hell of a Hat" is a great standout track because not only does it have a classic horn riff, but the muscianship is amazing, especially the outro of the song.
The album is very catchy, and the choruses will most likely not let you down. "Kinder words" and "Bronzing the Garbage" choruses will get stuck in your head. Lyrically, the album is still great, because the words flow so well with the music's sound and feel. Meaning wise, I think its as deep as you want it to be. Its pretty atypicial Bosstones material.
Question the Answers is a well crafted ska punk album from the 90's. Its weird to think this album was ahead of its time, since the ska punk craze didn't erupt until 1996, with bands like Reel Big fish, Less Than Jake, No Doubt and Goldfinger became really big. Still, one cannot ignore this album if you're a ska punk fan.