My first The Bouncing Souls album was The Bad, The Worse and the Out of Print, I remember vividly not knowing any of their music but loving the chaotic artwork on the cover. Prior to this album I had a few punk albums, but I was totally obsessed with ska. Reel Big Fish, The BossTones, Goldfinger, Buck-o-nine and Mustard Plug dominated my CD player. One day at the behest of some of my more punk friends I decided to check the Souls out, and it changed my musical taste forever.
It probably seems weird that an album full of rarities, b-sides, and alternate versions should be a person’s first intro to a band like the Souls. However it is in these choices of cover songs and the laughs and outtakes, where it became obvious that there is a very distinct feeling in a Bouncing Souls album. On every album of theirs that I discovered afterwards there is a strong sense of brotherhood and camaraderie, a nostalgia for simpler times with your friends, and a sense of fun. For every “Gone” there is a “Bullying the Jukebox” for every “Turned my Back on You” there is “Wish Me Well, Go to Hell”. They mine the emotional depths but never leave without displaying at least a little of the optimism that can only be found among your friends. You could say that haphazardly finding The Good, The Bad, and the Out of Print was my Bouncing Souls crucial moment. Which leads me to the actual Crucial Moments EP, a six song celebration of the bands thirtieth anniversary.
This album represents every aspect of The Bouncing Souls that people have come to know and love. It opens with the titular track and delivers a prototypical punk rock set on simmer style that is familiar to every album. It is a nostalgia fueled rocker which displays the bands ability to discuss heavier topics without abandoning a sense of hope. “These chords stick with me, this ink etched in me, these crucial moments played on repeat” Greg sings as he reminds us that these moments will play on repeat forever.
This nostalgia driven rock and roll shows up again on “Here’s to Us” a song that brings to light the darker times that have plagued the band and how they know that those times will not last because they have each other. “The world can have the past, we know they won’t last, because we got each other” shows that the power of camaraderie and their ability to find a light in the dark is still an ideal that they are steadfast to present in their music. There are a lot of little things that have always made the band unique, Bryan’s bass lines being one of my personal favorites and this track may be some of his finest work.
While these two songs make it seem like they have moved away from their classic punk rock sound, this is where “1989” and “4th Avenue Sunrise” prove they can still shred with the best of them. The first being the about the community they discovered through having “no talent just a dream” and how they “Stick together, that’s the deal, Gotta make something, make it true, All together with all of you.” It is a punk rock ode to all their friends and all the good times they had even in bad situations. While “4th Avenue Sunrise” is a bass heavy blitzkrieg, clocking in under two minutes, that emphasizes a dark romanticism.
The highlight of the album is “Favorite Everything” an upbeat love song. The Bouncing Souls are at their finest with this type of pop-laden bouncy rock, (See also “True Believers”, “Hopeless Romantic”, “Private Radio”, “Manthem” or “Kate is Great”), which in these case is a song about comparing music to the love of their life. There is so many great analogies, from “You’re the greatest compilation” to “You’re the song that bring a tear, embrace the love, embrace the fear”, that specifically speak to the comparison of one’s love of music to the love one has for another. Simultaneously a happy love song and an emotional expression of words that can be difficult to articulate.
Crucial Moments ends with “Home” the saddest song the Bouncing Souls have written this side of Anchors Aweigh. It is a significant change in the tempo set forth in the earlier parts of the album but cranks up the emotional weight. “Home” proves to be an endless place where fear and sadness will never reach, a place away from a world that just does not care. Proving once again that even in the saddest depths of a Bouncing Souls song there is always a sense of hope and a small glimmer of optimism.
In a celebration of their thirtieth year as a band, The Bouncing Souls have proven that they are timeless. To paraphrase their own song, Crucial Moments has songs of punk and songs of joy, a love song about girls and boys, songs of metal and some English stuff, and some hardcore to make us feel tough. This album is a six song reflection on the band’s legacy, one of lighting our darkest times while reminding us to enjoy the good times with the people around us.
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