Just when I thought that brevity was the soul of punk, the Bouncing Souls release a new record and it occurs to me that I’ve been listening to these bleeding heart New Jersey boys for over 10 years. The band sticks to the formula they perfected on their 1995 record Maniacal Laughter: hootin’ and hollerin’ choruses a la The Business or Agnostic Front, Buzzcocks-style guitar work, and a heart of glass emotional epicenter. This is a punk rock band that, even during a Bush presidency, writes songs that namedrop Say Anything, praise pizza and BMX bikes, yearn nostalgically for high school, and mope about girls. Meaning, in short, the Bouncing Souls are as ballsy, fun, and charming as ever.
The Gold Record‘s title refers directly to its scope and attitude: at 45 minutes, this is the longest Bouncing Souls record to date, and while not quite as fresh as 1999’s excellent Hopeless Romantic, the production is bold and big without sounding overdone. Harmonicas, accordions, and horns make guest appearances, but The Gold Record revolves around the group’s guitar/bass/drum setup, with few overdubs. Vocalist Greg Attonito’s yelp leads the fray, and like the rest of the band, he’s never sounded better.
While the band’s sound is still infectious, the songs are not their finest. There may not be many future fan faves on The Gold Record like “Old School” or “Kate is Great,” and for a band that reminisces about being 16, one still wishes they didn’t have to write lyrics as though they still were 16: Why begin the album with the couplet “I saw you from across the street today/My heart skipped a beat today”? There are some truly great moments on The Gold Record—“Midnight Mile” is a short, razor-sharp blast of melancholy, like if Morrissey fronted The Misfits, “So Jersey” is a warm ode to their home state that’s both gritty and wholesome, and “The Messenger” roars like some of the band’s best anthems of yore—but as a whole, The Gold Record is more dependable than it is spectacular.