Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

BOUNCING SOULS - Ten Stories High
(Pure Noise Records;

Paul Silver
I’ve never been a follower of The Bouncing Souls, making me an outlier in the punk scene. Their last studio LP, “Simplicity,” was my first exposure to them, and I really enjoyed that album. That came out seven years ago, which is a long time to go without new music. But thankfully they’re here with ten new songs that are almost universally bright and poppy with a punk edge. I say punk edge because it’s hard to call them punk these days; the music is much more in the indie rock genre. Nevertheless, The Bouncing Souls show that even after 35 years they still can craft great songs, full of pop and energy. The album opens with the title track, and it’s one of the best of the record, with just the right balance of melody and power, big vocals, a metronomic pounding rhythm, and huge guitars. “Back To Better” is the closest the band get to punk this time out, with a speedier grittier sound, but still with a strong melodic sense. In some ways this song reminds me of Descendents. “Another Day in Denver” is probably my overall favorite track, with the simplest yet strongest melodic line, the most enthusiastic vocals, great backing vocals that contrast with the leads, and some great tempo shifts. I like, too, the loping feel of “Shannon’s Song,” which has a somewhat slower tempo, but no less of a big sound, with huge power chords. This song also has the biggest dynamic changes of the album, morphing into a smooth quiet one halfway through the song to finish it out. “To Be Human” is the one song that’s outside the mold of the rest of the album, with a harder, edgier sound, devoid of pop brightness. The verses are almost gritty, while the chorus smoothly soars. I hear hints of Bad Religion in this one. The album closes with “Higher Ground,” which I’m sure will be a crowd pleaser at the live shows, with its big anthemic sound and plenty of sing-along opportunities. But to my ears it’s the weakest song of the album, sounding a little too generic, a little too forced, like they were trying to create a big arena song. It’s not a bad song; it just doesn’t match up to the rest of the album. Which is a good one.

Jim Testa
The Bouncing Souls feed off their audience – spiritually as well as financially – more than most bands. A Bouncing Souls show is a singalong from start to finish; the audience is as much a part of the show as the band. So when covid left the Souls unable to tour, the group reached out to its fanbase through Patreon and starting writing songs on demand for a small fee. What they learned about the lives of their fans (and the role the Souls play in them) are reflected in these songs culled from that experience. The first Bouncing Souls album in eight years finds the 30-year old quartet hasn't lost a step. Usually, sticking to a songwriting formula becomes a liability after time, but the Bouncing Souls have refined writing Bouncing Souls songs to a science, and every track here boasts big anthemic singalong choruses and a feel-good energy the band should patent. Kevin Seconds contributes vocals on a few tracks, but lead singer Greg Attonito has never been in better voice, Bryan Kienlen's bass throbs and percolates through these songs like a lead instrument, and guitarist Pete Steinkopf delivers riff after catchy riff, bringing the energy of a teenage hardcore band but filtered through a deep sophisticated understanding of the genre gleaned from decades of hard work. Whether you're a longtime Souls fan or new to the band, this one's a keeper.

Mark Hughson
Any band that lived through the pandemic has a little story to tell. I'm not sure where Patreon and Zoom fall on the “Is it punk?” spectrum, but thankfully the end result is favorable. In fact one of my big takeaways from this new album is how consistent, or dare I say ahead of their time this band was. I’ve heard modern comebacks from 90's stalwarts like Screeching Weasel and Goldfinger and you can obviously tell they’ve “updated” their sound. Ten Stories High sounds modernly fresh but still pretty much like what the Souls have always done - punk pop that has springs on its feet, and epic singalongs that make you feel like you’re one of the band (which is extremely pertinent on this particular release, since conversations with fans contributed to the songwriting.) I suppose it might be a bit more introspective than previous records, but that’s par for the course for pandemic-era albums, and the band readily admits “Hey, we’re in our forties.” Hey! I am too! Recommended.

Richard Quinlan
The Bouncing Souls are punk rock comfort food-everything is always guaranteed to be familiar and anthemic, delivered with sharp skills and a wry smile. It is hard to believe that it has been thirty years since the Souls first emerged; I distinctly remember seeing them for the first time at a small, Pennsylvania college in the early 90s when they invited the entire audience on stage to sing along with their ska version of “Master of Puppets”. This was the closest as I will ever come to a religious experience, and I pledged to forever be a Souls fan. I only share this because Ten Stories High is a collection of songs based on tales told by fans. As the oppression of the pandemic set in and bands were increasingly restricted in terms of creative outlets, the Bouncing Souls became members of Patreon. This may have caused trepidation among the members, but it also brought the band into direct contact with their fans who shared their stories which became the foundation of each track. The personal nature of the work creates an intimacy on efforts like “Back to Better” and “True Believer Radio”. This pair represents the very best of the Bouncing Souls, as the hooks are huge and both tracks are fueled by the ageless rhythm section of bassist Bryan Kienlen and drummer George Rebelo. Vocalist Greg Attonito sounds as strong as ever, with the always reliable Pete Steinkopf churning riffs that blend punk energy and warm melodies. A trio of songs (“Shannon’s Song”, “Andy and Jackie”, and “Vin and Casey”) act as the centerpieces of the record, and snapshots of people’s lives set to music. The works on Ten Stories High will permanently preserve these events, and it is an amazing thought to know that the impetus of each track are the words of the fans themselves. After three plus decades of writing and touring, no one should allow themselves to imagine that the should have slowed down as the aforementioned “Vin and Casey” is a blazing piece with a stirring refrain of “You…you will never die” that will give people chills. “Magnus Air Organ” lessens the intensity a touch musically, but that allows the lyrics to take the spotlight (“Dreams are not easy to follow/ giving up on them is a harder pill to swallow”). The title track is an instant sing along gem brimming with youthful energy, and “To Be Human” borrows a Ramones-style riff but expands into three moments of honesty about how it can be a struggle to simply “be human”. “Higher Ground”, which closes the record, was the first song written for it, and finishes off the collection with a soaring, powerful conclusion. It is always a good day when the Bouncing Souls release new music, and Ten Stories High is a celebration of the band’s classic style as they continue to evolve.

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