Bowling for Soup - The Great Burrito Extortion Case
Release Date: November 7, 2006
Record Label: Jive/Zomba
"This fucking song is all personality," declares Bowling for Soup frontman Jaret Reddick on the lead-in to "I'm Gay." Try to pick another line that further epitomizes the band's struggle on their fifth major-label album, The Great Burrito Extortion Case. Most listeners have a love-hate relationship with the band. "Too cheesy or formulaic," some argue. "They've got some of the most unserious, smile-inducing music out there," supporters can shoot right back. Regardless, the (not so little) Texas pop-punk band that could shot to fame with a Grammy nomination in 2003, while their '04 release garnered serious airplay with the Radio Disney crowd. Quite a change of worlds.
The band seems to eschew some of the goofy humor we saw on A Hangover You Don't Deserve for songs that are more serious. Bowling for Soup touch on some weighty topics including domestic violence and the effects of alcoholism on the new album. At times, they are torn between two worlds—making a social statement and writing the catchy pop-punk that sells records like hotcakes. "99 Biker Friends" is all of the above, and maybe a bit more.
So far, they have released two singles from The Great Burrito Extortion Case. "High School Never Ends" recalls the pop gem that got the band nominated for a Grammy, but hits a bit too high in the age bracket and a bit too low in ambition. Sure, you'll sing along with it in 2 seconds flat, but the sugar rush will flatline soon after. Remembering that many of their fans are only hitting the first year or two of high school, Bowling For Soup's mix of pop culture and nostalgia really will only resonate with longtime fans. Musically, it should have seen more success, but the song just doesn't strike the target audience. Single number two is a late-album bloomer called "When We Die." This one is a down-tempo ballad full of regret laced with optimism. Despite a charming attempt, something about this formulaic song just doesn't feel like the Bowling for Soup that music fans have grown to love (or hate).
The Great Burrito Extortion Case has its strong points, such as the hopeful and energetic "Val Kilmer," and some of the clever lines peppered throughout the fourteen songs. The problem is that the instruments feel stale and overall, the music lacks the charisma of A Hangover You Don't Deserve. In fact, I would even venture to say that this is the band's most erratic collection of songs released through Jive. I would recommend passing on this new CD and instead fleshing out your discography with some of Bowling for Soup's previous work if you want to experience Reddick's personality without half a dozen celebrity namedrops and some empty-carb choruses.
I still think that "Pictures He Drew" (from Let's Do It for Johnny!!) is one of the best serious songs they've ever done. It's too bad this album just doesn't seem to have the "it factor." There are some songs I would listen to quite a bit, but there are some songs that after listening to the album countless times, I still couldn't pick out of Name That Tune.