It's that time of year again... the evenings are getting shorter. I'm a week back into my second year at college - studying History & Politics - and the headphones have been dusted off for the daily commute. Among the various things I've been listening to, then, as been this amazing album, my introduction to the 'Souls.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation is, simply put, the happiest album ever made. That may not be entirely accurate but that's how I felt when I first discovered this band, and it's pretty much still how I feel now.
The sound of the Bouncing Souls is difficult to describe. Bouncy, fast, loud punk-pop with songs about (what else?) love and life. Or more specifically, exuberant and glorious punk songs about growing up, moving on, feeling sad, cycling through the city streets or just listening to great music. Really, the Bouncing Souls are all that and more; they are so confidently and yet so generously themselves; they are a huge, immense presence in the world.
Summer Vacation, Anchors Aweigh and The Gold Record form a wonderful trilogy of modern punk-pop records (and here's to hoping that it becomes a quadrology!). The band themselves are long-established - in fact about as old as I am - but I think it is with How I Spent My Summer Vacation that they made the leap from goodness to greatness. The earlier records are quite enjoyable, but their later style both evens out and builds up their sound. Such is the skill, feeling and peerless sense of mundane beauty packed into some of the songs on this album - especially the closer 'Gone' - that every beat will move you. Pure emotion, or at least the stylistic expression thereof, is a crucial ingredient in their music, for all that it is standard guitar-based punk.
To put this particular record in context, it is necessary to sketch the development of the beating heart that is the Bouncing Souls. Before, their albums were short, sloppy slices of fun, full of jokes and silliness. Hopeless Romantic, which immediately preceded Summer Vacation, was in places wonderfully evocative, joyous and tender, yet overall its effect was somewhat diffused by the series of throwaway joke songs. Anchors Aweigh veered towards comparative 'seriousness', with broad Springsteenesque brushstrokes, and was overall a poignant album with, at times, an unusually overt political message. But How I Spent My Summer Vacation is, in its distinctiveness, the transition and the perfection of their style.
The Bouncing Souls are a rare kind of group; a combination of artistic creativity and soulful authenticity, but most of all, a true punk band.
put the needle on - How I Spent My Summer Vacation
(And if you want to know how I spent my summer vacation - at least, the part where I went on holiday, the rest being in fact this blog! - there are some pictures here)