Never Hungover Again was one of the most acclaimed punk albums of 2014 for its short, punchy, simple songs with great lyrics. Joyce Manor’s follow up, Cody, sees the band with catchier, cleaner and more melodic songwriting. The emotive vocalizing of poetic lyrics is still there, but this is Joyce Manor’s most accessible album yet.
Clocking in at 25-minutes, this is Joyce Manor’s longest record yet, and amidst the 90’s punk comparisons Joyce Manor gets, this album’s biggest influence seems to be Weezer. The guitar-tones on songs like “Fake I.D.” or “Over Before It Began” bare a strong resemblance to The Blue Album. The band are good at writing the type of riff-heavy power-pop with equally impressive lyrics. The trudging pace of tracks like “Last You Heard of Me” makes it sound like it would fit right in on Pinkerton. Songs like “Make Me Dumb” and “Fake I.D.” are much more in tune with arena-rock and pop-rock than melodic-hardcore. Still, Joyce Manor retain some of the best elements about their sound.
Songs like “Reversing Machine” and “Do You Really Want to Not Get Better?” are short, to-the-point tracks that can’t overstay their welcome. “Reversing Machine” has Barry Johnson yelping like he’s on the verge of a drunken breakdown. “Get Better?” is quite different. It’s a reserved acoustic track with lyrics that are written and sound like an empathetic conversation with a friend. “Angel in the Snow” tracks some of the mundanity of young-adult life like previous Joyce Manor albums. The well-paced track ends with the lines:
Paid seven dollars
For a plastic cup of vodka
Doesn’t make a difference
Doesn’t make it wrong or right
You gotta stay this way forever
‘Til it makes you want to die
You needed something out of nothing
While pop-punk tends to focus on not growing up, Joyce Manor focuses on the difficulty that inevitably comes when you do grow up. “Stairs,” the album’s longest song, details looking for parental qualities in a significant other. Where it initially sounds like a sweet sentiment, it eventually sounds sadly pathetic how incompetent and dependent Johnson is. It’s important to remember that a lyric like “there’s so much good inside you” is preceded by the line “You are like a magnet for evil.” Johnson’s sense of paralysis is what makes this track though. It adds a sad twist on the catchy number. It also makes the final song titled “This Song Is A Mess, But So Am I” much less of a surprise.
The album’s biggest weakness is its lack of hardcore influence and how polished the vocals and production sound. The closest Joyce Manor get to preserving their old sound is on “Make Me Dumb” and “Eighteen,” but it doesn’t last. Even “Make Me Dumb” seems to be more of a comment on success than it is on drunken college parties. The band has more in common here with blink-182 than Into It. Over It. But I guess, that’s growing up, right?
It’s not a bad album, by any stretch of the imagination. Barry Johnson and company are just getting older. We just have more bangers than ragers.