To be honest, when I think of Bowling for Soup, I think of “Girl All the Bad Guys Want.” That, or “Phineas and Ferb.” It’s not exactly a stunning pedigree. I had long since filed them away with Simple Plan and Good Charlotte in “bands that have long ceased to be relevant.”
Evidently, they’re not done yet. “Fishin’ for Woos” comes out April 26, but I was lucky enough to nab a copy early. Upon doing some cursory research, I learned that the band has been creating albums pretty much nonstop since 1994. I had no idea. Not a good start.
The first song, “Let’s Pretend We’re Not in Love,” takes me way back, musically. The staccato electric guitar and whiny vocals would be right at home at the Warped Tour circa 2003 or so.
The second track is even worse. “Girls in America” is the title, and the lyrics largely consist of “Girls, girls, girls” ad nauseum. It sounds vaguely familiar, somehow, though I’m sure I’ve never heard it. By track four, I realized why everything sounded so familiar: all the songs sound more or less the same. The really homogeneous pop-punk guitar riffs all sound like something ripped straight from MTV ten years ago.
A quick glance at the track lengths reveals that they are all somewhere between three and four minutes; there’s never more or less. There’s just no exploration of style within the album. Bowling for Soup found something that worked for them, and they stuck with it for 15 straight tracks. It’s like someone made a “Bowling for Soup Automated Song Machine” that mass-produces music for them.
Just to cover all the bases, “Turbulence” breaks the mold ever so slightly. It’s a slower song that starts quiet before it evolves into the same thick, stodgy, whiny music porridge that coats the rest of the album.
What’s sad is that the entire collection feels like it’s clutching desperately at the last vestiges of youth. The album might as well be titled “Girls and Kissing,” given that those two things comprise about 80 percent of the lyrics in the songs. The tenth track is titled—no joke—“Friends Chicks Guitars.” It’s like a parody of what teen-oriented bands sing about. There’s a song called “Graduation Trip.” Come off it. You guys are what, forty?
For the sake of not coming off as totally negative, I do find that the musicianship is competent.
Overall, the album is just weak. Nothing jumps out as being particularly good or interesting; in fact, the only thing notable about the album is how remarkably bland everything is. I don’t think I’ve gained anything other than the knowledge that Bowling for Soup has actually been doing things other than “Phineas and Ferb” recently. It’s their best work.