The Bouncing Souls – Volume 2 (Album Review)

You can never go back to your first time falling down the rabbit hole of a great song. But sometimes a special artist can remake a classic in such a way that it wraps you in the glowing warmth of nostalgia while displaying a maturity that echoes your own growth. Doing just this, Punk legends The Bouncing Souls deliver their reimagined collection, Volume 2, on Friday, October 23, 2020, thanks to Pure Noise Records.

If you have been feeling like 2020 needs more Punk Rock, well, you’re not alone. So what better time to hear from the beloved New Jersey punks in The Bouncing Souls? Formed in 1989, the quartet has consistently delivered new music over the course of their three decades long career, beginning with 1994’s The Good, the Bad, and the Argyle, including 2003’s Anchors Aweigh, and most recently adding 2016’s Simplicity to their oeuvre of material.

Thanks to 2019’s 30th anniversary run of shows and their acoustic sessions, the quartet—Vocalist Greg Attonito, Guitarist Pete Steinkopf, Bassist Bryan Kienlen, and Drummer George Rebelo—has been inspired to bring fresh perspective to their extensive catalogue. On the cheekily titled Volume 2, they reimagine a selection of tracks from their past while looking toward their future. Produced and engineered by the acclaimed Will Yip (The Menzingers, Turnstile), the 11-song collection contains 10 drastically different versions of Bouncing Souls’ classics, as well as a brand new song (“World on Fire”).

From the very first notes of album opener, “Argyle,” it’s clear that the changes will be dramatic throughout Volume 2. The once frenetic crowd-pleaser that initially appeared on 1996’s Maniacal Laughter is now, like the entirety of the collection, fraught with acoustics that show the band’s maturity and highlight their songwriting abilities. Here, the emphasis definitely lies on the lyrics and Rebelo’s delicate percussion, though Kienlen’s bass remains prominent.

In a perfectly arranged moment, the opening notes of the original “Gone,” off 2001’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation, foreshadow the remade “Argyle.” In this setting, however, “Gone” comes second with a softer, more languid arrangement that displays the obvious evolution of Attonito’s vocals, while maintaining its show-stopping, sing-along choruses. Off the same 2001 LP, “Late Bloomer” moves to a fuller, more refined sound, while “Simple Man,” from Anchors Aweigh, shifts toward a sleepy rocker; perfect for combating the chaos of 2020.

Next, they capture some of the wild energy that made 1999’s “Hopeless Romantic” so infectious, allowing their exuberance to spotlight their witty lyrics. Similarly, the catchy choruses of “Kids and Heroes,” another Anchors Aweigh selection, shine even brighter in the remake. All of this before they opt to get a little folksy on “Favorite Thing,” the sole representation of their 2019 Crucial Moment EP. Once a rocker with thick bass, now the song has a glittery surface layer that’s capped off by the inclusion of trumpet.

This continues into the Country feels of “Highway Kings” and the super minimalism of “Say Anything,” which was first found on 1997’s The Bouncing Souls. Of course, it’s the brand new offering, “World On Fire,” that many fans are pumped to experience. A fresh piece that fits the entire collection flawlessly, it’s an exploration of finding your happy place amid the uncertainty of a world in turmoil. And when Attonito sings “What a time to be alive,” you can sense his gentle smirk. But they truly save the best for last with “Ghosts on the Boardwalk,” the decade-old track shimmering bright in its evolved version, which adopts some new textures and provides that heart-lifting moment to end upon.

Though The Souls may have kept it loose and spontaneous throughout the recording of Volume 2, nothing about the collections feels haphazard or slapped together. Instead, the songs shine in their fuller, largely acoustic arrangements. Reworked, but certainly not stripped-down, throughout the ten classic tracks there’s often a fuller body than what can be found in the originals; more thoughtful arrangements that highlight the groups’ songwriting abilities while enchanting their listeners into powerful sing-alongs. The smile that we need while we face a “World On Fire,” Cryptic Rock gives Volume 2 4.5 of 5 stars.

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