Most of the mass of post-Green Day pop-punk acts have been content to score a couple of novelty hits and play a few MTV spring breaks, but The Bouncing Souls—who've been around as long as Green Day—are thinking about a legacy. Following last year's career-spanning double live CD, the New Jersey bashers make a bid for American Idiot-style zeitgeist-grabbing on The Gold Record, a boisterous, hooky collection of songs about being young and restless. The disc is built on generalized suburban Americana, but The Bouncing Souls frame the universality of songs like the high-school loser anthem "The Messenger" by balancing it with the vividly descriptive "Letter From Iraq," which sets a modern war story against a raging sound-storm. This is an album about living and dying in 2006.
The Gold Record takes a summary attitude, beginning with the follow-your-dream track "So Jersey" and the next two songs, "Sounds Of The City" and "The Pizza Song," where the band gets out of the house and takes a trip—mirrored in the sonic shift from stun-ray guitar to acoustic bounce. The "Here's what we know and here's what we do" approach continues through a cover of The Kinks' graduation-day classic "Better Things" and the album-closing "For All The Unheard," which pays rousing tribute to local music scenes everywhere. But really, the whole record has a feeling of conclusion, right down to throwaway songs like "Midnight Mile," where The Bouncing Souls show a casual mastery of classic pop-rock songwriting and punky grind. The knock against bands like The Bouncing Souls is that they produce a clean version of music that should sound dirtier, but as the top-to-bottom solid The Gold Record proves, there's something inherently appealing about craftsmanship backed with muscle.