REVIEW: The Bouncing Souls – "Comet"

New Bouncing Souls. Alright. It is a bit hard for me to look critically at a Bouncing Souls release. I am a bit of a, I guess, fanboy for this band. Got a Souls tattoo and everything. But, yeah.

So, Comet is the first proper full length since 2006’s generally awesome Gold Album.* So, this has been the longest gap between full lengths. In that gap, they left Epitaph and signed to Rise Records (well, Rise and their own Chunksaah). That said, this is a fairly good introduction to the Rise Records audience. But, similarly to Hot Water Music, I don’t see this record changing any minds.

This is a nice 10 song collection. It has a lot of the melodic punk rock that the band helped popularize in the 90s. Honestly, this record is Bouncing Souls by the book. There are the quick, sing along punk songs, two kind of goofy songs, a random ska thing, and slower punk ballads. It is a fair representation of everything the band is known for. That plays as both a positive and negative thing.

For example, “Baptized” kicks off the record in a great fashion. For the people who were doubting the band’s ability to still make a killer punk song, it shows they are more than capable. It is good, but it sounds like a song cut from Anchors Aweigh more than it does a fresh, new song. Honestly, the record seems like a mash of things from Anchors Aweigh and The Gold Album. This isn’t a bad thing in general. Those records were fantastic, but there is kind of a rehash thing happening. “Static” is a song about the state of music on radio, but it doesn’t hit with the same level of awesome that “Sing Along Forever” did. Basically, this record keeps hitting with good songs that make me want to go back to their old albums and hear great songs. I don’t know.

“We Love Fun” and “DFA” are songs that should have never made the album. They are totally joke songs. While the band has a history of having a goofy song or two on a record, these two feel more like filler than fun. The problem here is that their previous full lengths are usually between 12 to 16 songs. It is hard to overlook two filler songs on a 10 song album. Then we have “Coin Toss Girl,” which is a generally good love song. But, it totally cribs a riff from Springsteen’s “Born To Run.”

While I had issues with Bill Stevenson’s production on the last Hot Water Music record, he does great here. Honestly, everything is mixed well. The Pete’s guitar is high in the mix, but Bryan Kienlen’s bass sounds right there too. Michael McDermott continues to show how great of a drummer he is. Greg Attonito sounds really good too. His vocals sound almost better than they ever have.

To close this overly long review out, I say this is a good record. It never quite tops their older stuff, but the good stuff is good. I’m coming off as super negative about this record, but I really do love this band. Maybe the fact that I am so attached to the old stuff gives me a bias against this? But, check it out.

*Ghosts On The Boardwalk isn’t a proper full length. It was a compilation of their 2009 20th Anniversary Singles Collection.

The Bouncing Souls
Rise Records
Chunksaah Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Hot Water Music – "Exister"

So, we all know that reunion records are rarely great. With that caveat, Hot Water Music is back with their first new record since 2004’s middling The New What Next. Basically, this sounds exactly how you would expect it to.

The move to Rise Records hasn’t changed the sound in any dramatic fashion. Exister sounds like their Epitaph releases. The third song, “State Of Grace” even makes a reference to the the song “Trusty Chords” (from the Epitaph release Caution) with the whole bit about hating the taste of medicine. There is the rule though: never mention a better song in your song. Much of this record sounds like rehashing of their old records. While that makes for an enjoyable record, it doesn’t make for a great record. But, most people who are going to buy this have been drinking the Hot Water Music kool-aid for years by now.

Don’t get me wrong, “Safety” and “The Traps” are pretty solid songs. The opener, “Mainline,” is a great way to start a record. This just doesn’t feel like the same Hot Water Music. A lot of that has to do with the production. I know everyone is stoked on Bill Stevenson, but I just don’t dig his most recent production work. He has this tendency to make things sound way bigger than they need to be. Sometimes that works, but mostly it doesn’t. I don’t expect Hot Water Music to sound like the gruff punk rock band they used to be, but I also don’t expect them to fall in the list of overproduced. Simply put, there is no reason for any Hot Water Music song to sound like The Gaslight Anthem.

Musically, this is pretty solid. Definitely more in the gritty punk (re: Epitaph releases) than the Fugazi-ish post-hardcore (re: No Idea releases). Chuck Ragan sounds pretty good on this record. Chris Wollard, ehhh.  When it comes to Hot Water Music, there is nothing new under the sun. As a full length, this is fine enough. Not great, but good. Had it been an EP it would have been great. So, file this as yet another middling reunion record.

Hot Water Music
Rise Records
Buy It

Artwork note:
Though this has nothing to do with the review, I do have a small quibble regarding the artwork for this record. They didn’t use artwork by Scott Sinclair. Are you kidding? I don’t know why not, and maybe there is a good reason for it, but to have anyone else do a HWM album cover seems wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Horesbites is cool and all. I really like the stuff he did with Less Than Jake. But, really? Shit looks boring.