Some people say punk's a music of youthful energy and wet-behind-the-ears enthusiasm. Some say any rocker over 30 should be put to pasture. The Bouncing Souls say those people can stick it.
With Anchors Aweigh (Epitaph), the New Jersey guys' seventh full-length record, the Souls hit new heights. Building on the band's foundation of anthemic, oi! chants, pop melodies and drink-'til-your-head-spins punk, the album overflows with everything that made the Souls' previous six records so great. Chuck the old punk adage: age isn't slowing them down, but dramatically improving the Souls.
"I think someone told me a long time ago that a band is only as good as their last record and I try to live by that philosophy," explains guitarist Pete Steinkept. "I think people get lazy sometimes and start to ride it out. Like, 'Oh, we're pretty big. We're pretty popular. We can just sit back now!' That's no way to make music. That's a cop out."
The band's had a lot of time to polish its formula. Since forming as a high-school pastime in 1987, the Souls consistently avoided the waves of punk-rock trends to explore their own brand of music. It works, too --- Anchors Aweigh doesn't need to jump aboard any of the latest bandwagons to grab listeners' attention. With songs that blend the band's melodic stomp with its most straight-ahead punk songwriting ever, the Souls reflect on the weight of growing up ("Simple Man") and the loss of friends on "Todd's Song" which is dedicated to the memory of Pietasters singer Todd Eckhardt. Of course, the band's romantic streak is audible on "Better Days" and "The Day I Turned My Back on You."
It's hardly the sort of album you'd expect to come out in the trend-fueled punk scene of the past few years. Anchors Aweigh cuts through the swaths of emo bands, mall-punk trios and garage-punk acts. This is the way punk rock was meant to sound: Honest, hopeful, and, most of all, completely on the outside of any sort of definable trend.
"That's kind of what we base our whole philosophy on," Steinkept says. "We don't do MTV. We don't do get-rich-quick kind of music schemes. There's so many bands out there that come and go, or get really big, really fast. The next year, you're like, 'Oh, I remember that band. What happened to them?' It happens all the fucking time. Our whole goal as a band was to just do it in our own way and do what we love without playing games."
That mentality has helped the band survive for more than 15 years, cover about a gazillion miles on the road and sustain a drummer change. The ups and downs of musical trends don't really derail a band that pays absolutely no attention to them, anyway. In fact, mention the fact that his band is turning into some of punk's elder statesmen, and Steinkept shrugs it off with a laugh. Growing up, apparently, isn't a direct effect of aging.
"We don't feel old at all. We just feel like we're getting better," he gushes. "I still feel like I'm 18 years old all the time. It's all how you perceive it. You're only old as a band if you become bad and stop mattering anymore."
In that case, the Souls are about as young as they come.