Sometimes bands mature over time. The members get older, the fan base grows, the music scene changes, and bands decide to compensate. Some call it �selling-out.� Some call it �progress.� It really all depends on how one looks at things. Now, not all of these changes are for the better. When a band alienates its fan base, or produces any other negative effect in the interest of growth, then I�m inclined to lean towards the �selling-out� point of view. However, as I am just a humble reviewer, I tend to stay on the fence when faced with such matters. Of course, what happens when a band transcends its original roots, without any detrimental feedback, then something truly special has occurred. Again, I like to keep my opinions as unbiased as possible, but for once, I�m going to make a slight suggestion. The Bouncing Souls have achieved the latter of these two sides of the spectrum with their latest release, The Gold Record
Ever since their humble beginnings as a bratty pop-punk band from New Jersey, the Bouncing Souls have been something of a unique act. However, they suffered from one real shortcoming throughout most of their career: they lacked complexity and depth when writing songs. Honestly, some of their earliest works sound like they threw the songs together in five minutes of less. Middle of the road albums showcase the Souls� gravitation towards a more coherent, intricate style of pop-punk. The end result of said gravitation would be The Gold Record
. Blending elements of the Souls� past with new, tasteful flavors, The Gold Record
is a perfect example of the musical progression bands can go through over the years.
From a musical standpoint, The Gold Record
is rather impressive (for the Bouncing Souls, at least). While the Souls have hardly been poor musicians in the past, their performance on their latest album is simply fantastic. Tight, edgy, fast guitars; furious drumming; powerful bass; a dash of harmonica here, accordion, and what do you have? A pop-punk album that�s both ambitious, yet fairly staid at the same time. Lyrically, the Souls are as astute as ever. Since they�re long past their days of writing 1-2 minute songs, the listener can actually get a serious taste of their songwriting talent. Catchy, well-written lyrics, when matched with the hooky music, captures the Souls� sound of the past, and at the same time creates something that is totally new.
The album begins with �The Gold Song.� From the sound of breaking bottles and shouting of �hey� that makes up the intro, it�s easy to see that this is going to be one of the strongest songs on the album. Fast, catchy lyrics overlay the fantastic instrumentation. The bass work is especially noticeable on this song (mostly due to the fantastic bass-driven break down). �The Gold Song� is a wonderfully energetic way to kick off one hell of an album. I can appreciate �So Jersey� quite a bit. Since it�s a ballad about the U.S. state in which I currently reside, I can connect with what The Bouncing Souls are trying to say (to a certain extent). �So Jersey� is a slower song than its predecessor. Addictively melodic, it�s a welcome change of pace of the album. �Sounds Of the City� is the poppiest song thus far. Meaning it�s awesome (as the Souls do the whole �pop� thing very well). Everything from the fresh melodies to the great lyrics make this yet another solid track.
Sometimes, songs with the most interesting titles or concepts can be the weakest you�ll find. Unfortunately, �The Pizza Song� is no exception. Though it features The Bouncing Souls� trademark quirkiness (complete with accordion and trumpet!), �The Pizza Song� just doesn�t stack up to the rest of The Gold Record
. However, it�s still an enjoyable listen, as it�s one of the most unique selections instrumentally. Ah, we�ve hit my personal favorite: �Sarah Saturday.� Every aspect of this song is excellent. From the intoxicating lyrics, to the bumping basslines, to the fantastically catchy chorus, �Sarah Saturday� is (in my humble opinion) the strongest track on the album. �Better Things� is a cover of a classic song by The Kinks
. The Bouncing Souls do it quite a good deal of justice. It�s a great song to begin with, but with a little of the Souls� flair, it becomes a fantastic joyride.
�The Messenger� is another one of the most ambitiously wonderful songs on The Gold Record
. This is due in part to the fact that it features and absolutely incredible
harmonica solo. �Lean on Sheena� is the second cover song; this originally of Avoid One Thing
. Seriously though, what the hell is up with punks and the name Sheena? Sure, it makes for some damn good music, but obsession is unhealthy. Much like �Better Things,� the Souls impress with �Lean on Sheena.� Well, the souls have decided to get political with �Letter From Iraq.� With lyrics spouting off about �an eye for an eye� justice, and �Jihad Johnny,� The Bouncing Souls may catch some heat for this song. However, at it�s core �Letter From Iraq� is a powerful, anti-war message, that conveys its point in its own brand of eloquence.
�The New Thing� is a relatively boring song. It sort of sticks out like a sore thumb in the fast moving pace that The Gold Record
is running at. It�s not really a bad song, it just doesn�t mesh very well at this point. Chalk it up as a good song that�s been plagued by poor position selection. �Midnight Mile� is quite possibly the best example of The Bouncing Souls� mature approach to their songwriting. As usual, great lyrics and music, coupled with impressive song structure, make this another impressive song. The Bouncing Souls have chosen to end The Gold Record
on a pseudo-balled note. At 6:49, �For All The Unheard� was a fantastic choice as an album ender. As the song fades into a powerful interlude that screams �pop-punk,� you can almost feel the raw energy of the album slip away, much like a candle being blown out in the wind.
The Gold Record
is an excellent album. Melodic, well-constructed, and full of attitude, it represents the best qualities of The Bouncing Souls of the past and future. If I had to nitpick, I�d say that the only place that this album fails in is the most common pitfall of punk albums in general: repetition. There�s just a little too much of it. All in all, The Gold Record
is good fun. Check it out whether you�re an old fan of the Souls, or someone just discovering one of the Garden State�s best kept secrets.
This review is dedicated to the Mx Pop-punk Community. For obvious reasons (well, obvious to them).