If you’re not an intricate initiate of punk’s robustly no frills ethos, then, despite its good natured heart, attending the live shows of some of its more conventional purveyors can seem like being thrust into an alternative fascism.
I approached The Bouncing Souls’ Cardiff gig with the enthusiasm that spawned from the memory of a single song (their ’99 nugget, Wish Me Well) easily eclipsed by such bona fide fear of getting psychologically lost in the streamlined spirit of the horde. A thoroughly disarming experience then, when unfolding before my eyes is an alt phenomenon to charm a mohawk onto a bald man’s head.
The Bouncing Souls are a fabulous movement of creativity within an all too regimented genre, mercifully forsaking easy sloganeering and testosterone-fuelled posturing to become to the three chords what The Flaming Lips are to pop. Taking to the stage, floppy-haired with mischief in his eyes, lead singer Greg Attonitoi proceeds to defy all the dogmatic trappings of punk performance, thrusting his fans into an alternate world of poignant emotion and quirky humour that fuels their well-directed lust.
Fourteen years of fun has resulted in a cornucopia of fan-pleasing material, and the Souls run through it with a piquant DiY ferocity. At their best, authentic personal blasts like Hopeless Romantic – “I’m a hopeless romantic – you’re just hopeless” – ride on an exquisite wave of paradoxically vintage punk adrenalin, leaving the crowd emotionally intoxicated and gagging for more of exactly the same.
These are the kind of songs that John Peel might have played twice in a row – terrific and guileful bursts that resemble Ash having taken three steps back into hardcore exuberance, the apparently formulaic illumined as if by magic. This is the unmistakeable touch of the Souls, and never, as a result, have I seen such genuinely elated Cardiff crowd surfing.
Over their 14 years, an affectionate, passionate sense of community has gathered around the New Yorkers, and their popularity (this Cardiff gig sold out in days) is evidently one of the least grudgable and profound in punk circles. They talk to an utterly non-exclusive sector and make the genuinely alt kids feel ten feet tall. Thus is their art, and a nobler, better-rendered celebration of subversion and mischief I don’t expect to ever attend with my clothes on.