January 12, 2010 - Chunksaah
The Bouncing Souls are capping off a year-long 20th anniversary celebration with the release of Ghosts On The Boardwalk, a compilation of the 12 tracks the band released in 2009 on their own Chunksaah imprint (originally, the Souls issued one new song each month for download, as well as compiling them on 7-inches every few months). It’s their first full-length since parting ways with former label Epitaph and going back to their DIY roots, but if Ghosts is any indication, fans needn’t fear the change. Aside from death and taxes, the Bouncing Souls are one of life’s few certainties.
Teaming up again with producer Ted Hutt (the Gaslight Anthem, Street Dogs), who steered The Gold Record, the Souls crafted a dozen new toe-tappers that showcase their undeniable strength as songwriters, and just how tight a band can get after two decades together. There’s a fire and a soul (no pun intended) to much of Ghosts that you just can’t fake, and the performances and sound quality sparkle.
The Souls’ rhythm section is the driving force, and on Ghosts, bassist Bryan Kienlen’s crisp attack adds the perfect punch to complement drummer Michael McDermott, who shifts gears in and out of a multitude of tempos with power and ease. Guitarist Pete Steinkopf lays down a heap of classic riffs throughout, as per usual, but also steps outside the box at all the right moments, like with the clean, echoing guitars on the beautiful, understated “Big Eyes.” Singer Greg Attonito has grown into one of punk’s finest and perhaps most underrated voices, and Ghosts is yet another opportunity for him to bring his effortless and unmistakable life to the songs.
And as for those songs, Ghosts comes across as a mixed bag, which is good in some respects and a little off in others. The upside is the record covers a lot of the band’s stylistic ground, from speed-punk (“Never Say Die”) to amplified goofiness (“Badass”) to arena-worthy anthems (“We All Sing Along”), but the album doesn’t have the cohesion of past records. Perhaps the process itself is to blame--the tracks were written and recorded in various sessions over time--but it’s a relatively minor quip. It’s kind of nice to hear a poignant rocker like the title track go into the twang of “Airport Security.” The variety on the record gives Ghosts an identity all its own.
Bottom line, you don’t survive 20 years as a band without being masters at what you do, and the Bouncing Souls certainly fit that description. So yeah, Ghosts On The Boardwalk rocks. If you’re a longtime fan, fortunately this comes as no surprise.
GO DOWNLOAD: “Ghosts On The Boardwalk”