I suppose the best way to begin a review of the Bouncing Souls' latest record "Anchors Aweigh" is to describe my recent experience at a Souls show here in Toronto. Unlike many of the shows I've been to in the past few years, the one thing that stood out about the show, besides the honest, positive vibe of the band, was the crowd they attracted.
A healthy mix of gutter punks, mohawked and suspendered folks with Sex Pistols T-shirts, sorority girls and skateboarders; what struck me was the completely unifying spirit that the band brought out.
Even though genres and bands have segmented and divided the punk scene into cliques and elitists and people who stare at their shoes and smirk at the Fat and Epitaph bands, the Bouncing Souls seem to exist in a vacuum where none of that had ever happened.
Like they were live, their records are honest, neither musically challenged, nor overwhelmingly technical. Simple punk rock songs like the kind bands played before the Warped Tour; before major labels even cared about our scene.
So, while "Anchors Aweigh" does show a new side of the Souls, at it's core, it's still a bunch of friends who clearly play this music because it moves them, not because it moves records.
As it happens, Anchors is a new kind of record for the Souls; it is, as the cliched reviewer term goes "a maturing." A darker side of the Souls has definitely come out, but it's still as interesting and exciting as songs about riding a BMX.
If you've never heard the Souls before, they're best described as a return-to-the-roots band. A core of three chord songs, vocals that hover between a shouting and singing, and big loud drums. On "Anchors..." they've turned down the shout a little, and slowed down a wee bit, but they never lose sight of what brings us out.
Clearly, the influence of world events is weighing heavily on the band, and their is a distinct darkness to the record, but rather than bringing you down, the Souls balance every dark moment with an air of hope.
Starting out with Apartment 5F, a quintessential Souls track, with the loud guitars and hyper speed rhythm section, you would be forgiven if you were expecting a normal record; but as the record progresses to Kids and Heroes, the boys start dabbling with a accutely more mellow side. (That is to say, punk rock mellow, not acoustic crybaby mellow)
Over the next fourteen tracks, the band pulls off early Green Day-ish pop-punk with "New Day, straight up anthemic punk rock on Born Free, graceful Bruce Springsteen references on Simple Man, and The Day I Turned My Back on You and ends on a sad, but hopeful note with the ode to friendship I'm From There.
It truly is a question of luck, or talent when a band branches out like this; will they alienate their long-time fans, will they lose steam, or will they succeed and reach a new audience while pleasing the guys who have been their from the beginning.
As someone who reviewed Manical Laughter for a high school 'zine, and loved them ever since, I feel that I can safely say, that they pulled it off.