Fresh off studio time and a U.K. tour last year, Bowling for Soup (BFS) return this spring with an album of new material that makes me wonder if they will ever run out of topics to talk about. At home in the clever wordplay that Bowling for Soup seem to work with so easily, “Fishin’ for Woos,” the 11th studio album in the BFS catalogue, keeps the party from “Sorry for Partyin’” going.
Songs like “S-S-S-Saturday” and “Let’s Pretend We’re Not in Love” find a reemergence in the song-style and sound of “Drunk Enough to Dance” and “A Hangover You Don’t Deserve,” the albums that brought these guys from Texas to the mainstream. “Here’s Your Freakin’ Song” drips with the BFS attitude that blew up on songs like “My Hometown” and “Two-Seater” from “A Hangover You Don’t Deserve,” and BFS have hit their mark again. “Smiley Face (It’s All Good)” has the same groove as “Shut Up and Smile,” and with fun-loving songs like these, it’s hard not to love Bowling for Soup as they take aim at clever songs rather than hardcore depressing tunes.
Yet along with the pop-punk anthems that get your adrenaline flowing, there’s another side of the album. “What About Us” is a surprisingly powerful ballad reminiscent of “When We Die” from “The Great Burrito Extortion Case,” and adds a level of emotion to an otherwise funny and happy-go-lucky album. Reddick and the rest of BFS prove that they can be just as deep as they can be witty when they want to be, and it seems to me that they certainly have a knack for it. But I respect BFS for not pushing it over the limit: Their albums aren’t taken up by sappy “my-girlfriend-left-me” songs that make you want to sit inside on a rainy day. Instead the songs have a brash bluntness that is the exact opposite: They accept reality and take it with a grain of salt, and whether you want to play them with the windows down on a hot summer day or while you’re outside playing ball in the rain, the undertone is “you can’t keep me down,” and that’s something I love.
Jaret Reddick’s voice is choice on this recording and, as it comes through the speakers to the rhythm of Erik Chandler’s bass and Gary Wiseman’s drums, songs like “Here’s Your Freakin’ Song” and “I’ve Never Done Anything Like This” (which features Kay Hanley, former vocalist for Letters to Cleo) create a party groove that boosts the album in ways I can’t help but love. Reddick continues the power and drive with Chris Burney as their twin guitar chords punch out and prove that the pop-punk rock way of doing things is just as powerful as it was back in 1996. The lyrical precision is quick and powerful and, as I listen, I think of songs like “Girl All the Bad Guys Want” and “Punk Rock 101,” whose lyrics stick in your head days after you’ve played them.
One of the last songs on the album is “Dear Megan Fox,” and just from the title I can tell this one is gonna be a trip. As the chords start and Wiseman’s snares set the rhythm, the lyrics of this song blow me away. Yet I shouldn’t be surprised at all. Penned by Reddick and Mitch Allan (from SR-71), this is the same songwriting team that wrote “1985” for BFS’s seventh release, “A Hangover You Don’t Deserve.” Their only Top 40 album, “A Hangover You Don’t Deserve” skyrocketed to popularity following the release of “1985” to radio stations. Since then, BFS haven’t really released singles on a regular basis from their albums from 2007-2010 to radio, but if they decide to release this track (the first single that’s been released is “S-S-S-Saturday”), I have no doubt in my mind that it will follow “1985” up the charts and rekindle an interest in the boys from Texas.
It’s interesting that Bowling for Soup doesn’t seem to be one of the popular bands in the pop-punk scene anymore simply because they are just not here. Though their shows in the States draw fewer people than Bright Eyes or OK Go, they sell out whole tours in the United Kingdom and Europe the way that Busted did a few years ago. Yet I still can’t understand it. I’ve seen BFS live five times (and counting), and every time is like a comedy show and a concert combined, and one thing that the Texas guys always make use of is diversity in their shows. I can go to a show and hear “Ohio (Come Back to Texas)” and “1985,” but also expect to hear songs like “Belgium” and “Life After Lisa.” In this vein, I look forward to going to see them again soon, and hearing songs I loved from “Fishin’ for Woos” like “Evil All Over the World” and “My Girlfriend’s an Alcoholic” that I know will never be released as singles.
For Bowling for Soup, the name of the game is fun mixed with a clever tongue always to keep you guessing (maybe that’s why their rendition of “… Baby One More Time” is a fan favorite). In any event, if you’re looking for a great album to play this summer with the windows down, “Fishin’ for Woos” is the one to go for. A mix of witty wordplay and fun-loving, popping rhythms, Bowling for Soup’s new release, which hit shelves April 26, is a triumph for the band.
An album that’s sure to ride in under the radar except for the most rabid of BFS fans, “Fishin’ for Woos” is the way to start summer right. I know for me, it’s going to be on permanent rotation for the next three months at least as a great next step in the crazy, clever Bowling for Soup saga.