Sound — 8
A twenty year career is impressive. A twenty year career as a punk band is very impressive. A 20 year career as a punk band having suffered only one lineup change is simply astounding, but that's The Bouncing Souls. Having spent a career building up an incredibly tight-knit network of fans, friends and family through their innate likeability and timeless anthems, the Souls are celebrating, once again, through music. In 2009 they put out a new tune every month, and Ghosts On The Boardwalk' is a rearrangement of all twelve songs into a more traditional album package. For many, the seminal How I Spent My Summer Vacation' cemented the Bouncing Souls as a band that act as a friend that's always there to keep your spirits up, and having a fresh instalment of New Jersey punk every month only enhanced that feeling thing is, it's not all power chords and jangly Bryan Kienlen basslines. In the past, their softer songs have been at best digressional but Ghosts On The Boardwalk' does the whole under 200bpm' thing far more effectively. Led by Pete Steinkopf's guitars simple, and totally in control - laid back rock tunes come close to dominating affairs, delivering hook after hook in Boogie Woogie Downtown' and single Airport Security', among others. But worry not, true believers! Mike McDermott would probably disintegrate if he went an entire album without thrashing out a Souls classic, so his perfectly produced drums return in 2010 with Gasoline' a barnstorm of a song that channels the Manthem' spirit excellently; he goes from strength to strength from there on in. Mike's finest moment, though, is on the title track, where his thunderous toms signal the shift from the verse to the chorus and with it the shift from mere cheeriness to Hakuna Matata' levels of bliss. That's where The Bouncing Souls have always excelled, and the punk arsenal here is bolstered by big choruses that will go on to join the greats.
Lyrics — 8
Maybe it wasn't their best idea to release Badass' as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations, because the audience is consequently aware that the band members must all be at least 30-something, and are still making songs about your mom'. But you've gotta love it, deep down. Besides that particular excursion into the...badass, the songs deal with life, love and philosophy - conveyed naturally through Greg Attonito's affable vocals, of course. Particular highlights are Dubs Says True' and We All Sing Along', which, on original release, lit up the dreary months of February and March with classic Bouncing Souls optimism and have a similar effect almost a year on.
Overall Impression — 9
It'd be fair to presume that a band who are this far into their career and starting to tone things down a little might be on their last legs, but the abrasive Never Say Die' is (...unsurprisingly) not the last little bit of punk being wheezed out before things start to simmer down. Even Like The Sun', which sounds dangerously like U2 at times, keeps a hold on that spirit which has always been at the centre of a good Bouncing Souls record. Ghosts On The Boardwalk' is their most solid effort since ...Summer Vacation', so grab a copy, put it on and let's pretend we're from New Jersey!