MIA’s greatest hits album chronicles the life of a punk rock band in Reagan-era America. Lost Boys is a blueprint for how to be a punk band. It’s good because it really does show that punk rock is music of the youth. These guys can kind of handle their instruments, almost keep time, and they have songs of unparalleled cynicism. It’s fun freak-out music. It makes you want to throw on your Doc-Martens, dig out that old army coat from the back of the closet and lose control right there on the living room floor. But unfortunately that is all it is. MIA aren’t a seminal punk band or even a great punk band. They are good and fun, but meant to be forgotten in the massive catalogue of do-it-yourselfers. We really don’t need a collection of their greatest hits any more than a greatest hits of Moby Grape. Who, you ask? Exactly: a relic of a specific time that doesn’t epitomize that time any more than the rest of those DIY bands did.
This album has fun songs on it. All of the songs are loud, obnoxious and decidedly punk. But some stick out a little more than others do. “Tell Me Why” is a great number challenging anyone for wanting to be an American. The lyrics are funny and angry, politically derisive and cynically humorous. “I Hate Hippies” is another good song, for its typically youthful, one-sided argument as to why punks are better than other groups/cliques/subcultures of kids. It’s a relic of a time when punks were in direct competition for the title of “cool rebel of the moment”, a time that no longer exists in the Adidas rock musical terrain.
Musically, this greatest hits compilation is sophomoric and badly put together. The only band member who stands out with any talent is the drummer. His ability to keep time at an accelerated punk beat is something that deserves credit. The guitarist and the bassist do not stray outside the punk rock formula, playing simple riffs fast and raggedly. These aren’t musicians of any great scope. But again, the music is fun and easy to lose yourself in.
Minor Threat and the Dead Kennedys were punk bands of scope and importance. The Sex Pistols and the Ramones were the forerunners of the era. Rancid are a punk band with true musical talent. MIA? They are a decent group from a time long ago. If you have some extra cash and a taste for some old-school punk rock . . . Well, buy one of the bands I mentioned above. But if you have all those, MIA isn’t a bad thing to spend that extra cash on.
// Notes from the Road
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