In 2008, the world’s favourite Texan pop-punk clowns Bowling For Soup released the live DVD/CD Live and Very Attractive. The juxtaposition of vibrant concert and backstage, before-show, and after-show footage makes for muddled, chaotic but ultimately enjoyable viewing, and listening. For the show captured the band doing what they do best. Two years earlier, The Great Burrito Extortion Case was a real let-down after the wonderful A Hangover You Don’t Deserve and Drunk Enough To Dance before that. These two albums are very much a showcase of Bowling For Soup at the top of a very difficult game: mixing emo, pop-punk, crooning melody, cheesy jokes and tongue-in-cheek humour. And Jaret Reddick, Erik Chandler, Chris Burney and Gary Wiseman do it better than anyone.
So it is now time for Bowling For Soup to step back to the plate they left unguarded in 2006. Opener A Really Cool Dance Song is an immediate masterpiece but something of an uneasy misleading start. Proof that four nerdy guys from Texas are completely aware of the world around them, this anti-Timbaland 80s throwback parody is marvellous. In an eclectic electro-synth interlude, Reddick declares, “Who the hell are we fooling? This isn’t really what we do. We had to borrow this keyboard; we only listen to Motley Cru…” before a great Gary Human pisstake. The single No Hablo Ingles is right up there with the best, if slightly offensive, with more hidden moments on each listen. And My Wena is the ultimate double entendre (thanks to some obvious pronunciation) delivered as deadpan Fountains Of Wayne. Puerile yes. But it will have you sniggering throughout. To complete a solid opening stint, Only Young is the big anthemic number. Another great punchy-pop chorus with Reddick on top form.
I Don’t Wish You Were Dead Anymore is more standard fare but more than just a filler. Likewise BFFF is a glorious celebration of straight man-love (“we fart and burp in the same key…and I think your iPod sucks“). Me With No You changes the mood completely back to bold Feeder-esque ballad. Every Bowling For Soup album has a moment like this, whether it is Where To Begin or When We Die, the honest serious side of the band is always there. To complete a trio of jagged edges, Hooray For Beer is another straightforward celebration of man’s favourite beverage.
In a weird moment of misjudgement, America (Wake Up Amy) pulls in the ‘talents’ of Scott Reynolds and comedian Parry Grip. The usual Bowling For Soup bits work fine but the extras that don’t are obvious. It is an odd move. What saves it from being a total disaster is a great final minute of soaring Green Day pseudo-political rally-crying. If Only is a great idea: to mix freaky phone message voice-over with a decent pop anthem. The joke has a rather weak double punch line but it’s probably Bowling For Soup at its most ambitious since 1985. Then I Gotchoo brings back the class with a fantastic emo-rap. It’s so good the band recorded two versions. The main version contains a glorious heavy metal moment with Reddick screaming like Axl Rose (this is replaced with a much lighter interlude on the extra UK version). Another great outro to a great song.
Into the last stretch, Love Goes Boom is a series of obvious references with a limp chorus and a few great ideas. The wordless outro is annoyingly lacklustre. I Can’t Stand LA is a bit of ironic fun theatre and a chance to namedrop just about every town in the US. Some inane chat links to an other slice of genius, yet another version of Belgium, this time with added Polka. Al Yankovic would be so proud. Brave Combo add the spice this time and the ridiculousness works.
Bowling For Soup has always been kind to the UK. Live and Very Attractive was recorded during the UK leg of the 2007 Get Happy Tour in Manchester. And Sorry For Partyin’ has an extra four songs just for the UK. Unfortunately apart from the ‘Other Version’ of I Gotchoo, the remaining three closers add very little to what is otherwise a great album. I Just Wanna Be Loved is dark and edgy, by Bowling For Soup’s standards and contains the immortal opening line, “I just wanna be loved, like the English love their spliffs and curry…”. Music made for the audience. The chorus is up to the usual standard and is complete with a huge belch at the end. But the whole song seems diluted in spite of a strong finish featuring some cool piano and a (staged) “fuck up“. From here the album should probably skip to the final song. Walk Of Shame starts well but goes nowhere, and ends up sounding like a Vanessa Carlton cover. Amateur Night is funny for all the wrong reasons and lives up to it‘s name. But you can’t complain too much about ‘free’ songs. Thankfully the ‘UK’ tailored I Gotchoo (Other Version) brings things to a proper upbeat close.
Sorry For Partyin’ is a return to the glory days of A Hangover You Don’t Deserve and Drunk Enough To Dance, a band having fun, being fun and above all, delivering. The ability to blend cheesy pop croons with witty, intelligent self-aware jokes is an ongoing art for Bowling For Soup. In the hands of four talented musicians and singers who understand melody and harmonies, this is a continuing winning formula. It is a shame that the band are so misunderstood by the media. They don’t always get it right but when they do it’s infectious, enjoyable and will knock the smile on your face.