Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review of the Day: ‘Natural Disaster,’ Greg Attonito (2011)

Over the course of two-plus decades, The Bouncing Souls have shown us how a punk band can and should grow up gracefully. Their most recent releases—2006’s “The Gold Record” and 2010’s “Ghosts on the Boardwalk”—are arguably the best of their career, delivered as these New Jersey misfits hit middle age. They succeeded by never losing their youthful vigor, even as it was tempered by maturity. Frontman Greg Attonito has spent his entire life writing and singing about his central themes of love, loyalty, friendship, and a sense of community that can make a difference.

His bandmates’ jaunty riffs and boundless energy are key to making those ideas not seem trite and rote. Unfortunately, when you take the Souls out of the equation, the flaws in Attonito’s game are glaring.

His new solo EP is aptly titled. It’s a mess—offering blink-and-you've-forgotten-them melodies riddled with cringe-worthy lyrics that—not buoyed by the Souls’ effervescent sound—come across mostly like the scribbles of a moony teenager in his first creative writing class. “I love you … your voice … your scent,” drones “Cincinnati Dream”; “I wanna see the colors of my soul/I wanna break the boundary of rock and roll,” opines “Teardrops”; opener “How Many Songs” (which musically tries way too hard to be “interesting”) naively reiterates the tired notion that a love song can “change the world all over.”

But by far the worst is “Sexiest Girl,” which opens, “The sexiest girl in the world is you, it’s true.” More embarrassingly awful couplets ensue that I refuse to print here. It’s one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.

The remaining two tracks save “Natural Disaster” from being just that. “Volcano” is a nice acoustic ditty that could’ve fit on the “Juno” soundtrack and gets bonus points for incorporating a muted trumpet. Country ballad “Eyes,” meanwhile, is easily the best cut on the EP and the only one I can recommend from this release with no hesitation. It’s wonderfully soulful and sweet (in a good way).

I give Attonito credit for trying, I guess, but “Natural Disaster” merely reiterates how perfectly the Souls’ talents complement one another. Because it didn't quite bother me until now, but the band's frontman has been saying the same thing for a really long time.

Grade: D+

Favorite Track: “Eyes”

Least Favorite Track: “Sexiest Girl”

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