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“The Impression That I Get”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 4, 2012

This is my favorite song to come out of the late 90s ska revival.  Ska was awesome the first time around in the 80s (not to mention its origins in Jamaica before that), but the short-lived revival mostly missed because the new ska didn’t have the emotional and political punch that the earlier incarnations had.  People started playing ska again because it sounded cool, not because it was a way to say something.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones weren’t part of the “ska is cool” wannabes, because they were always a ska band  They played the music because it mattered to them, because it said something to their lives.  A multi-racial band from Boston, the Bosstones are really what’s called “ska-core” a sub-genre that mixes ska and punk.  Needless to say, they have some angry overtones to some of their music.

“The Impression That I Get,” which was the Bosstones big hit in ’97, isn’t really angry.  It’s more like free-floating anxiety (something I can identify with).  There’s no real cause or impetus behind it, just the fear that something bad might happen.  “I never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has, which makes me wonder if I could, it makes me wonder if I’ve never had to knock on wood, and I’m glad I haven’t yet, because I’m sure it isn’t good.  That’s the impression that I get.” It’s all presented a little manically, sort of a sonic panic attack.  Granted, ska is a little manic anyway, but the dread inherent in this song just makes everything that much more jittery.  Which is what makes this song so interesting and good.  There’s the catchy, danceable tune coupled with an angst that refuses to be named, because naming it would make it real.  And there’s no reality to this kind of feeling.  It just kind of hangs over your head like smoke.

But smoke dissipates.  The fadeout of the song just lets the fear go, which is what we should all do with those silly, nameless worries that plague our lives.  Like Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had lots of worries in my life, most of which have never happened.”  I’m learning that most of my anxiety is just smoke and mirrors, that I can just blow it away and it’ll disappear.

But I always give a little knock on the door frame, anyway.  Just in case.

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