The new album from spunky punky Texans Bowling For Soup is a winningly angst-free affair. This very American quartet shows no signs of growing up, slickly blending candyfloss pop with expletive-packed metal-lite. This is the kind of stuff Fountains Of Wayne were gently mocking with recent single Stacey’s Mom – if you’re a 14 yearold boy and think that the Jackass crew were the epitome of cool you’re going to love this.
Copiously tattooed and fond of oversized shorts, Jaret Reddick and co are clearly having fun. Their brief, bouncy narratives about ex-girlfriends and soccer moms nostalgic for the 1980s may be formulaic but they’re also endearingly soft-hearted. Whether extolling the unifying effects of ice cream and a good hug, or displaying their affection for the Lone Star State, Bowling For Soup remain unswervingly upbeat.
The only note of bitterness comes on My Hometown when they aim a cursory nod towards the soul-crushing nature of small town life – other than that, this is an album of eighteen gleefully unsophisticated songs about losing out in love, hanging out with your mates and drinking lots of beer.
With this many tracks (plus a ton of goofy bonus material) the album inevitably drags. The tunes start to sound samey, and the relentless perkiness soon starts to become wearying. Fortunately the stand-out songs come at the beginning – Almost sets the tone for things to come with an undeniably catchy chorus, as well as a valiant attempt to rhyme Texas with breasts.
Trucker Hat features a pleasing combination of hand claps and Beach Boys harmonising. Shut Up and Smile encapsulates the band’s attitude perfectly, kind of dumb but also kind of sweet, a paean to love, beer and the need for people to get along with each other.
There’s zero attempt at introspection here – things either “suck” or they “rule”, but the album works on its own terms. It never feels forced or contrived, they’re able to deliver lines about hanging out in malls and having crushes on girls without getting bogged down in irony.
Nominated for a Grammy in 2003, the band are still unlikely to win any awards for maturity. Although Friends O’Mine is a relatively straight-faced musing on the importance of friendship and of looking out for your mates, they rapidly undermine any sign of them acting their age by belching loudly into the mic and generally arsing about in the endless studio-outtake that follows. Presumably their core fanbase of adolescent boys who find Blink 182 a little too edgy will not be overly disappointed by this fact.
Frequently funny and occasionally crude, Bowling For Soup may not be doing anything very different or original but their bright, optimistic outlook on life is rather refreshing – there’s no denying that they do what they do particularly well.