Now well into their forties, The Bouncing Souls seem to have a touch of Peter Pan Syndrome about them, having spent the best part of 25 years releasing record after record of catchy, lighthearted pop punk, much to the delight of their famously loyal fans. This stubborn, age-defying refusal to ‘grow up’ (i.e. ‘calm down’) is part of their long lasting appeal, and though their last couple of albums – 2010’s ‘Ghosts on the Boardwalk’ and 2012’s ‘Comet’ – saw them decide to crack the volume down from eleven ever so slightly, the New Jersey stalwarts’ tenth release, ‘Simplicity’, is as its name suggests a return to their pogoing, three chord rocker roots.
Catchy, summery opening number ‘Drive All Night’, with its wilfully simple, sing-along refrain (“driving all day/driving all night/driving all day/yeah, it’s alright”) is the first indication they’ve largely ditched the mellow vibes this time round, and ‘Euphoria’ keeps up the breakneck pace. In the interest of keeping things interesting, though, they do find a couple of opportunities to take their foot off the pedal, like the sunny Fountains of Wayne-esque power pop ‘Satellite’ and the anthemic closer ‘Up to Us’, both of which are highlights of the thirteen song set.
The rest of the record, though, is business as usual for the Souls, ‘Digital Twilight Zone’ and ‘Hey Aliens’ both recall ‘Static Age’ era Misfits, whilst ‘Tightrope’ and the hooky ‘Writing’s On the Wall’ are almost a tailor-made soundtrack to throwing yourself around in the mosh pit. ‘Hero Zero’, meanwhile, finds frontman Greg Attonino, in typical goofy fashion, asking of his failing relationship “is this a love story, or a dark comedy?/playing for the long run or going straight to DVD?”.
The Souls waste little time on ‘Simplicity’, with a good chunk of the songs barely breaking the two minute mark – meaning when you do reach the inevitable less than stellar cuts (‘I Wanna Be Bored’, ‘Bees’), they speed by so fast you hardly notice the dip anyway. Now an older, wiser and more road-worn group of musicians, many of the songs on this album (their first with drummer George Rebelo) sound as if they’re trying to celebrate and honour their early output, as opposed to outright copy their past glories; a subtle but important distinction that proves to be the key to the album’s charm.
Overall it’s a good record, not a great one, but many of their most die-hard fans will no doubt just be relieved hear the band seem to have regained their sense of fun.
‘Simplicity’ is out now via Rise/Chunksaah records
This Bouncing Souls article was written by Dan Whiteley, a GIGsoup contributor