Review Summary: By no means a punk-pop masterpiece, but a very pleasant, fun listen for the approaching summer months. Pity the group seldom fares this well with their own material.
In the midst of the second wave of punk-pop, many bands went by unnoticed. Blink were the undisputed kings, pretty much being around since the first phase; New Found Glory and Sum 41 were vying for the veterans’ previous throne; but down in the lower levels, a myriad of bands were fighting amongst themselves, often surfacing for five minutes of unexpected fame before continuing with the scheduled program.
One such band was Bowling For Soup. Reaching unintentional novelty-act status with the fun, bouncy and self-referential 1985
, the group went on to see their following album, 2004’s A Hangover You Don’t Deserve
, achieve fame and fortune. However, that album was plagued by as much, if not more, filler tracks than actually interesting songs, thus lacking the consistency to side with the pop-punk greats. The closest the group would become to that feat would be the next year, with their more offbeat but also more consistent album, Goes To The Movies
Now, the status of Goes To The Movies
is strange at best: it is neither a full-fledged cover album, nor is it a new collection of original material. Instead, it features a few (rather poor) self-penned songs and a lot of (rather good) covers, ranging from TV show theme songs to novelty period pieces and obscure retro pop songs. The result is an album which, while definitely overlong and a tad too shiny-happy, will constitute a perfect soundtrack for summer car rides or pool parties.
The start of the album is probably its strongest section. With the cover for Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius
giving us an early standout and tracks like Greatest Day
or the fast, frantic and delectable Spanish Harlem
keeping up the pace, the album initially seems on its way to having no weak tracks whatsoever. Sure, a few of the early moments are not that interesting – chief among them the Britney Spears cover, which I can’t listen to without recalling the MadTV spoof – but overall the balance is just positive enough to keep us satisfied and entertained. However, at 15 tracks, weaker moments were bound to begin appearing sometime, and, soon enough, they do, in the form of tracks like Little Red Riding Hood, Melt With You
or Sick Of Myself
, which make the album a little bottom-heavy.
However, that’s not the main problem with Bowling For Soup. The essential qualm I have with the group is the fact that, at times, they sound too optimistic, even a little forced. You know those permanently-happy Christian Summer Camp counselors, or those well-groomed young men who stop you on the street seeking to spread the Good Word? That’s what BFS eventually begin to sound like. Their puppy-dog eagerness to please and sunny-sweet outlook on life quickly become grating, and by the time the second half of the album rolls around, we are about ready to stab lead singer Jared Reddick only to make him see the darker side of the psyche. With this new mindset, some may want to exit the record early, but those will stick around will still be treated to the Beatlesque vocal lines of (the otherwise uninteresting) Five O’Clock World
, the cheeky lyrics and upbeat feel of Sometimes
or the excellent version of the Gilligan’s Island
In the end, however, Bowling For Soup make no attempt to hide who they really are. With a record made up of songs from Hillary Duff and Lindsay Lohan movies, cartoon theme songs and Britney Spears covers, the group clearly states which demographic they’re aiming for - and that demographic will certainly love the album. Older, more wizened listeners may still derive substantial pleasure from the best moments in this album – any theme-song cover, the shyly sweet Star Song
, the defiant Undertow
, the Ferris Buelleresque Greatest Day
– but will eventually grow weary of the group’s permanent bounciness and cheer. Still, while Goes To The Movies
is by no means a punk-pop masterpiece, it remains a very pleasant, fun listen for the approaching summer months. Pity the group seldom fares this well with their own material.
Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius