Bouncing Souls - 20th Anniversary Series: Volume One [7 inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Bouncing Souls

20th Anniversary Series: Volume One [7 inch] (2009)


New Jersey punk rock lifers the Bouncing Souls have always been nostalgic, among other things. The band's catalog is filled with love songs to their friends ("Lamar Vannoy," "Kate Is Great"), their friendship ("Manthem"), even their favorite inanimate objects ("Streetlight Serenade (To No One)"). The group celebrated its 15th anniversary with the very excellent award-winning documentary Do You Remember?: 15 Years of the Bouncing Souls. The doc was a well-made testament to the Bouncing Souls, who have enjoyed a longer creative streak of great albums that exceeds those by the Clash, the Ramones, Rancid, Jawbreaker and many more. To commemorate the band's 20th anniversary this year, the Bouncing Souls simultaneously embraced new and old audio technology: On the first of every month in 2009, the band has been releasing a new MP3 for sale. Every third month, the band's personal label, Chunksaah, is releasing a seven-inch collecting the three songs released online thus far, plus a bonus track. It's both new-fangled yet very retro.

Well, it's April, and the Souls have -- albeit a month late -- released the aptly titled 20th Anniversary Series: Volume One. This 33 1/3 beauty comes on colored wax (mine is black and maroon), and the cover forms part of a Souls anniversary logo created by bassist Bryan Kienlen and Arturo Vega. Now, I haven't been keeping up with the band's online releases (I also wait for my favorite TV shows to come out on DVD. Watching three seasons of How I Met Your Mother within like a week is awesome), so Volume One was a surprise for me. The first side, featuring January's "Gasoline" and February's "We All Sing Along," is standard pogo-ready punk from one of the best Jersey bands of all dang time. "Gasoline" is a bitter missive against all of the paranoid, hateful news bites floating on television, radio and the Internet. Drummer Michael McDermott gives the song a driving pulse, fighting off the darkness in vocalist Greg Attonito's vocals. "We All Sing Along" is almost more positive by default. It's another rocker, this time describing how music keeps a cast of characters from completely buckling under the tyranny of the sort of unforgiving world mentioned in "Gasoline." These first two songs complement each other well, both in terms of sound (bitchin'!) and perspective (shit's fucked but we got a song!). While it doesn't quite match the fury and hooks of, say, How I Spent My Summer Vacation or Maniacal Laughter, the A side is still a solid double shot of Bouncing Souls goodness.

The B-side, featuring March's "Airport Security" and the bonus track "A Life Less Ordinary," tweaks the Souls' formula a bit. "Airport Security" is a pretty light, mid-tempo track. It has more in common with mid-`90s alt-rock than, say, Lifetime or Face to Face. It's a decent track, but not terribly memorable. Also, the lyrics have a slightly rambling, directionless bent. "A Life Less Ordinary" is a little more interesting, with a haunting, acoustic tone previously hinted at on the seminal Anchors Aweigh record (and, apparently, the band's recent live shows). Attonito has always been an iconic punk singer to me, articulate and powerful but with a much more relaxed delivery than most punk/hardcore vocalists. "A Life Less Ordinary" feels like a much more natural fit for him. It's a good chill-out song after the record's rock-centric cuts, and the guitar solo at the end is sweet.

Volume One is an all-too-brief listening experience -- I want a new Souls full-length and I want it right now. And, compared to the band's wealthy discography, it doesn't top what they have done before. But it's still the Bouncing Souls singing punk rock songs about struggling against a fucked up American current, and that gives me great comfort. I'm always gonna love these mooks. Happy birthday. Now please fast forward to June so I can get Volume Two.