As punk rock bands become more and more cartoonish, the Texas quartet Bowling for Soup have decided to run with the concept and simply become a punk rock cartoon. With their unfortunate facial hair, haircuts and dye jobs that would have been rejected by A Flock of Seagulls, and a lead guitarist who looks like a future contestant on “The Biggest Loser,” the band could be the stars of a show on Nickelodeon, if only they weren’t so potty-mouthed.
Like a sitcom, their songs can be funny, if occasionally formulaic. Stuffed with enough hooks and harmonies to keep your interest, the music doesn’t stray too far from what one tune calls “Punk Rock 101,” and is cagily constructed enough to keep the laughs coming at regular intervals. Adolescence, loser’s division, is their subject matter, along with tunes that gently skewer hipster foibles. But songs from their recent Jive release “A Hangover You Don’t Deserve” such as “My Hometown” and “Two Seater” express enough hostility between the gags so that no one ever calls the band cuddly.
Their well-scrubbed, collegiate aud responds enthusiastically, singing along, throwing up their hands on cue, laughing at the band’s jokes and cheering when hands forming devil horns inflate alongside the drum riser. But there’s only so many times you can be impressed by frontman Jaret Reddick’s tossing his guitar pick in the air and catching it in his mouth. If they don’t watch out, Bowling for Soup could end up as a punchline themselves.
American Hi Fi are as tuneful as the headliners, but without the shtick. Their punchy guitars and Stacy Jones’ nasal vocals wouldn’t have sounded out of place during AM radio’s last gasp during the mid-70s; songs such as “Hell Yeah” and “The Geeks Get the Girls” (from their upcoming Maverick album “Hearts on Parade”) can stand beside hits like “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.”