In a nutshell, we have 24 Bowling For Soup classics reinvented for the ebony and ivory. Tickling both is Scott Simons, a name I confess I’m wholly unfamiliar with but I assume we move in different social circles. Not that I’m averse to a bit of piano. I still have a Richard Clayderman double-album on vinyl that I asked my parents to get me for Christmas when I was about ten years old.
It’s not unusual for people to cover other acts’ work. The likes of 2Cellos, The Piano Guys, Leo Moracchioli (FrogLeap) and The Lounge Kittens have all proved how successful this can be. I recommend checking all of them out if you haven’t already. What is unusual is for a band to approach someone else and ask them to cover their stuff! Which is what seems to have happened here. As Jaret himself says:
This is an idea I have had forever. But one that I just didn’t know how to make happen. I mean, who would buy this, right?! All the BFS songs, easy listening style… And you can listen at work, in the nursery, or even at your wedding?! Ok, I would buy that! So I did! And now it is a reality for everyone to stream, buy, or whatever they are doing to get music these days! Two albums at once! Go get your chill on!
So how does BFS translate to purely instrumental plinks and plunks? Erm… Very well. Bloody well, in fact. Far better than I would have expected and that’s with me being a huge fan. Frankly I’m staggered. I thought this would be a novelty I’d listen to once or twice, enjoy and then forget about. But, no, I’m actually listening to it a lot. It’s perfect to put on when you’re trying to work or read as you don’t tend to get caught up in the lyrics as you do when the originals are playing.
Interestingly, Simons has put his own tone to each of the songs. The piano can be bright and cheerful, it can be maudlin, it can be dramatic – in the right hands, of course. Not every song receives the emotional emphasis you may expect. “The Bitch Song”, for example, is a rant. But here we have something far slower and more laid back with a great toe-tapping low-end rhythm (I assume adapted from the original’s bass line). It’s powerful, but not in the same way as the original.
“Girl All The Bad Guys Want” isn’t too different in tone, being bright and breezy. “99 Biker Friends” is a chirpy, cheeky little number. “Belgium” is far more rousing than you’d expect.
But “When We Die”. Holy crap. Look, it’s been a long holiday with the kids. I’ve had a year full of ups and downs. I’m currently exhausted and trying to sort out my sleep patterns before going back to work on Monday, and I’m not feeling 100%. This all leads up to the fact that this recording had me in tears. It is so sad. I can’t remember the last time a piece of music affected me so much emotionally, but this… Right song, right time. Absolutely beautiful.
So, yeah. Sold. Lock, stock and barrel. I’m not going to say “if you’re a fan you need this” as it is still niche and I know it won’t appeal to many. But I will definitely say that you need to give it a listen with an open mind. If I’d listened to it sooner it would have been on my review of the year for 2019 as one of the top albums (it’s not sneaking into two slots by being two volumes – that’s cheating).
And if I’ve googled the right chap, Simons also sang the lead vocals on the Paw Patrol theme. Legend.