The Bouncing Souls / The Menzingers - split [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Bouncing Souls / The Menzingers

split [7-inch] (2013)


25 years in, the Bouncing Souls remain impressively cognizant of the scene around them. A lot of people in old punk bands – and a lot of old punks in general – can't be bothered to listen to new music. Certainly not everyone is like this, but take one quick look around the internet, and if you look in the right place you'll find an old punk bemoaning, likely in all caps, the bands of today. They tend to look back at the time they came up in punk through rose-colored glasses, which is fine to an extent, but not at the expense of willful ignorance regarding the evolving music scene they claim to love so much. The members of the Souls, through their label, production work, tour mates, Home For The Holidays shows and other means, have in part maintained their own relevancy and tenure in the scene by avoiding that stereotype.

Not that the Menzingers necessarily need their help. They're are riding a wave of increased popularity and critical acclaim that will likely continue when their next album comes out, presumably some time in early 2014. Anyone who's seen the band live in the past couple of years – and the reaction they receive from fans in that setting – can attest that these guys have been onto something special for a while, and that people outside of the cliquey punk scene have begun to notice. Still, this split between the Souls and the Menzingers is a lot of fun, and in a way invites fans into the minds of each band – one tipping their cap to a younger group for keeping the beat alive and another thanking the elder band for their years of guidance.

The Souls' side is, well, typical Souls: "Blackout" is rife with anthemic melodies, a healthy dose of gang whoas and a big chorus. The guitar work is also very strong, with Pete Steinkopf subtly elevating his riffs as the verses progress, then breaking them wide open in the chorus. His work has never been flashy, but his ability to merge these elements with his usual workmanlike approach will always be impressive. Their cover of the Menzingers' "Burn After Writing" stays true to the original while adding extra heaviness and directness; Greg Attonito's vocal performance is particularly invested and impressively rangey. Sonically, both songs aren't far off from what the band did on their pretty-good 2012 LP Comet.

The Menzingers counter with the Greg Barnett-fronted "The Shakes," which is a little rawer than anything from On The Impossible Past but maintains the melodic mid-tempo bent that dominated that album. Also of note is Barnett's continuing trend of simple, less-is-more choruses, which in this case should yield some healthy singalongs in a live setting. Tom May takes the lead for the band's cover of "Kate is Great" and plays it pretty close to the chest; the original's exuberance is intact here and as a result, it's one of the more upbeat recordings the Menzingers have done in years. (It's also a far cry in that regard from some of their other recent covers, like their live versions of Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" and the Lawrence Arms' "Are You There Margaret? It's Me, God." Can we get studio versions of those too, please?)

This split is a nice treat for fans and completists. Both the Bouncing Souls and the Menzingers contribute strong originals and fun, faithful covers that should bridge the gap somewhat as we wait for new albums from them.