This was a good year to be a Bouncing Souls fan. And when I say “year,” I really do mean 365 days – the Souls played some great shows and served up new songs all year long. By now, you should know the drill – the band digitally released a song on the first of each month (or thereabouts) and a seven-inch every three months with an acoustic bonus track for their 20th anniversary series. Sometime next year, a CD collecting the original 12 songs called Ghosts on the Boardwalk will be released. As a fan, I’ve stayed excited for each new seven-inch year-round, so much so that I’m a little sad to see the project end. But hey, at least now I can put the four album covers together to form the Souls’ 20th anniversary logo.
Volume Four of the collection shouldn’t be too surprising to those who have been following the series closely. The songs are mellower than previous Souls releases like How I Spent My Summer Vacation or Maniacal Laughter. A sides “Like the Sun” and “Big Eyes” are kindred spirits – the former finds the narrator (let’s assume it’s frontman Greg Attonito) looking for love in an uncaring world, while the latter finds Attonito older, wiser and happier, imparting a message of hope to a girl stuck in the same seemingly cruel surroundings. These tunes don’t necessarily sound like a typical Souls song – not enough “whoas” – but lyrically, they pretty much sum up the band’s ethos. These guys have struggled with depression and so have their fans, and the two groups find solace in the punk rock middle.
Underground music – and let’s be honest, the Souls might be too big for that phrase save for their avoidance of MTV, radio and commercials – sometimes exhibits an exclusive coolness, a schoolyard superiority complex that takes a wee bit too much pride in its clique status. The Souls have never been that kind of a band, as these songs illustrate. The chorus to “Big Eyes” literally states what essentially every Souls has said to me: “Hey little girl don’t look so sad it’s not the end of the world / I’ve seen this film before, already know the ending / Some of the faces change but the plot it stays the same / So take my hand / Let’s walk away.” It’s going to be OK. Like a certain other Souls song says, “I built this cloud / I can break it / The world can’t change how I feel.”
The record’s flow is similar to series highlight Volume Three, in that the first side is relatively low key, while the flipside boasts one rocker coupled with an acoustic number. “Never Say Die/When You’re Young” rocks like “Badass,” although it’s not nearly as funny/awesome. It’s still a solid track, though, carrying the same positive message as the A side. An acoustic version of “Ghosts on the Boardwalk,” originally from Volume Three, closes out the vinyl. Its energy is about the same. The song translates pretty easily into an acoustic number, perhaps aided by the group’s decision to keep the eerie intro from the full band version.
With the closing measures of “Ghosts on the Boardwalk” concludes the Bouncing Souls’ 20th anniversary series, at least until Ghosts on the Boardwalk drops. It’s been fun, there were pretty colors (my copy of Volume Four is on a black/white swirl. Mail order rules), rock was had. Now to brainstorm for the 25th anniversary…