Bouncing Souls - Ghosts on the Boardwalk (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Bouncing Souls

Ghosts on the Boardwalk (2010)


"Gasoline," the opening song to the Bouncing Souls' 20th anniversary LP/collection, Ghosts on the Boardwalk, starts with the lyrics, "Sex and violence has lost its charm / I need something to amuse / War is boring, it's not enough / I need a shock down to my shoes / Pedophile lust, tortured blood in the dust / take all you can/ As long as it's on a TV screen/ Keep it away from my house, man." While 2006's The Gold Record was a poignant snapshot of living in a world of Bush-era politics, "Gasoline" eloquently conveys a shared desire to move beyond the empty propagation of fear that still goes on in the media and rhetoric of today. While the Souls have always been known for the reflection and reminiscing, Ghosts on the Boardwalk isn't anywhere close to a complete departure from this, but the idea of mentally, emotionally and physically moving on is a prominent theme explored in many of the songs collected here.

If you are familiar with the Souls' brand of bright pop-punk, nothing should come as too surprising or out of place. There is even a few songs like "When You're Young" and "Badass" that sound like the fast-paced punk of their earliest records. Unlike the classic material found on albums like The Good, The Bad, And the Argyle and Maniacal Laughter, these songs come off a bit uninspired. Minor songwriting touches, like the hand-claps on "I Think That the World...," the harmonica in "Mental Bits" and the organ on "Like the Sun" show a further embrace of the straight-up power-pop approach that has found its way into the Souls' repertoire on their last couple of albums, proving to be one of their real strengths. Ghosts on the Boardwalk really picks up with summery upstrokes in the aforementioned "Mental Bits," which might remind you of the pseudo-reggae sing-along of Swingin' Utters' "Catastrophe." The acoustic-driven "Big Eyes" is a hopeful number that finds the Souls at their poppiest, with shuffling rhythm and country-inspired guitar parts -- a possible reflection of where the band might be headed.

It is understandable that for their 20th anniversary the band would want to make something representative of their entire catalogue. At the very least, the Souls are successful in doing that, giving a sampling of everything from the fast SoCal-influenced punk of their early days, the crunchy mid-paced pop-punk anthems of the middle of their career and their newer increased debt to pop. The songwriting isn't always 100% on point, and the album is somewhat bottom-heavy, but if you like the band, it is full of the same relatable lyrics, catchy guitar lines and anthemic choruses. Still, the Souls give a respectable example of a pop-punk band that can age gracefully.