Review: ‘Ghosts on the Boardwalk’

“Ghosts on the Boardwalk” is the album compilation of the Bouncing Souls’ “20th Anniversery Series” from last year, where they put out a new single every month. I heard a few of the tracks last year, but I mostly missed out because they were all digital downloads or on 7″ vinyls (I had no way to purchase music online or order the vinyls). It’s the 20th anniversary of the Souls (I will continue to abbreviate their name to this) and I think everyone expected it to go back to its roots and make an album like “Manical Laughter.” It didn’t.

I tried to avoid reading reviews before I listened to the album for this review, but it was unavoidable. Most reviews rate the album from mediocre to straight-out bad, claiming that the Souls hit a decline with its last record, “The Gold Record,” in 2006. I have never seen reviewers be so wrong.

The Souls has hit no decline. It becomes obvious with the opening track, “Gasoline,” which gives more power to three simple words than any other song on the album: “Gimme some gasoline.” The song calls for a revolution in the turn society has taken, with lead singer Greg Attonito claiming, “As long as it’s on a TV screen, keep it away from my house, man.” Take the song as fuel to the fire, “Gasoline” is only the start to a great record.

Track 2, “Never Say Die / When You’re Young,” plays like a ’90s punk song, jumping straight into the chorus with a strength and ferocity I have been told I would not hear on the album. The first verse holds true to the spirit of the song, claiming, “We’re the ones they couldn’t keep in line / Living like we know there is no time.” The themes of track one, about the problems in life, are brought back with a more positive attitude, telling the listener to live life to the fullest and “never say die.”

Track three is a typical romantic love song, something I have come to expect from the Souls, and track 4, the title track to “Ghosts on the Boardwalk,” shows an even lighter side to the Souls, with a calming vision of New Jersey Boardwalks. Throughout the middle part of the album, the listener is greeted kindly with catchy guitar riffs, punk anthems, and even a ska-styled song with harmonica (“Mental Bits”).

Now, not that any of the album has been bad up to this point, but my favorite two songs shine through at track 10 and 11, “Big Eyes” and “We All Sing Along,” respectively. “Big Eyes” seems to tell the story of a lonely teenage girl who used to have big dreams for the world. I would have never believed such a typical setting could be displayed with such emotion and passion, with Attonito telling her, “Don’t look so sad, it’s not the end of the world / I’ve seen this film before, already know the ending / Some of the faces change, but the plot it stays the same.”

“We All Sing Along” tells several stories of people who had big dreams, but not everything played out as they hoped. Detailing a young songwriter who wanted to change the world, an older woman whose suburban lifestyle and marriage did not work out well, and a homeless man who used to have strong career ambitions. The song seems pessimistic, while just looking at lyrics, but there is a sense of joy in the narrator’s realization, singing, “But the world has its own ideas we all must play the hand fate deals / When our plans have come and gone we all sing a one-heart song / We All Sing Along.”

The album features some of the Souls’ best songwriting I have ever seen. I fell in love with the Souls, I still love the Souls, and I do not think the Souls will ever disappoint me.