Sound: Bowling For Soup retains its rightful throne for being the foremost band obsessed with pop-culture on The Great Burrito Extortion Case. If you were a fan of the band's hit song 1985, then the latest CD will undoubtedly have you chuckling throughout. But when you get past the lyrical content, the music just doesn't ever seem highly original. There are the fans out there, however, who will be able to overlook the musical shortcomings for any song that can mention Reese Witherspoon, Bill Gates, and Jack Black in the same verse.
I'm Gay is one of the best tracks on the new album, and it's not even because of the goofy title. The song consists of several different musical sections that keep it from following a usual pop-punk format. Vocalist Jaret Reddick quickens his delivery, then suddenly slows it down again, making I'm Gay seem like one fun sing-along. The song culminates in a climactic la-la-la section, which although comes out of nowhere, does kind of give the track almost a Hey Jude feel. But rest assured, the band is definitely not trying to be The Beatles.
Bowling For Soup (vocalist/guitarist Jaret Reddick, guitarist Chris Burney, bassist Erik Chandler, and drummer Gary Wiseman) does incorporate its signature harmonies throughout, providing highlights in several songs. While vocalist does rely on harmonies through much of the record, the most effective use is in Much More Beautiful Person. What makes this track different is that Reddick starts by singing the verse in a lower register with no backing harmonies behind it. When you contrast this section with the higher vocals that are added in, that difference allows the song to have a completely different feel than the other songs on The Great Burrito Extortion Case. Throw in the additional backing vocals from Lesley Roy, and the female presence takes the song in a fresh direction as well.
The primary problem with Bowling For Soup is that they allow the lyrics to take over the songs most of the time. A song like A Friendly Goodbye is likeable enough, but it's only because it draws on a lot of familiar human emotions in a humorous way. When you take away the chorus, which features F U as the primary lyric (no abbreviations there, those are the lyrics), you get a fairly dull strumming pattern that never really goes anywhere interesting. Don't get me wrong, people will love the idea of a song that screams an almost-expletive in the chorus, but it's just not breaking any new ground. // 7
Lyrics: Bowling For Soup has a distinct style that cannot be confused with pretty much anyone out there, and that is a pretty powerful thing itself. The band loves referencing pop culture and the latest album is full of witty observations of contemporary life. While the lyrics do tend to get contrived after a while, the band does go beyond what you normally hear in a rock song.
One of the most entertaining tracks lyrically is Val Kilmer. The song actually as almost nothing to do with Kilmer, but rather it reflects on how life has become more of a tearjerker than an action-adventure. Reddick sings, So if you miss my movie; get the DVD; Check out the chemistry; Between you and me; Less 'Raising Arizona'; More 'Steel Magnolias.' There are few bands out there that do the entertaining job of working in specific movie trivia that Bowling For Soup does.
A Friendly Goodbye is another great example at how the guys find new ways to write break-up songs. Rather than spout blatantly venomous lyrics, the band shows how even clean phrases can deliver feelings of distaste for an ex. Reddick sings, Cause I loved you even more that you could ever imagine; Here's a friendly goodbye 5, 6, 7; Ain't that a b with an itch, ain't that a mother trucker; You can go to h-e-double hockey sticks and f yourself. Good, clean, fun, it is. // 9
Overall Impression: Bowling For Soup is undoubtedly a fun-loving band, feel-good band that will please its die-hard fans with The Great Burrito Extortion Case. The personality in the lyrics can be heard in every line that is sung or played, and that is a big plus. Almost every song on the album has lyrics that will jump out at you and the band deserves credit for keeping the album creative.
While the band has plenty of energy behind the tracks, the songwriting is still lacking in many areas. Too many of the tracks sound the same and even the harmonies tend to get old after a while. If Bowling For Soup could just match up the lyrical quality to the music, the guys might not have to always rely on lines about Chuck Norris or pooper scoopers to keep your attention. // 8