Release Date: Oct 7, 2016
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Emo-Pop, Punk Revival
Joyce Manorâ€™s fourth full length arrives with a new sense of confidence, one reiterated with a Kanye West reference in the first song. Cody, the newest addition to an almost perfect catalogue, benefits from self-imposed expectations and overall progress.Itâ€™s hard to follow a breakthrough record, especially one such as Never Hungover Again. Released on Epitaph, the record transported them to â€œcoolâ€ punk band on many indie websites.
Whenever an artist is in the position of following up a breakthrough album, it’s interesting to see the direction they go next. For Southern California-based Joyce Manor, following up their 2014 release, Never Hungover Again, is a big proposition considering the universal and instant acclaim that album garnered. With their album, Cody, Joyce Manor has taken the concept of the follow-up to not only mean progression musically, but also what comes next thematically.
Joyce Manor have always thrived on immediacy. Their whole debut album was the length of some Explosions in the Sky songs, and their to-the-point, thrashing grubby rock has always done its best work inside a minute and a half. ‘Cody’ still runs for less than half an hour, but it’s less of a headrush than anything the band have produced before. ‘Do You Really Want To Get Better’, an acoustic calmer mid-album, doesn’t feel like it’s holding up an avalanche, as the down-tempo moments on 2012’s ‘Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired’ seemed to.
Referring to Joyce Manor as a pop punk band is a misnomer, of sorts. Over the course of their last three full-lengths, though the band have incorporated pop leanings into their music, they've always embraced the punk aspects of their sound to a much greater degree, with breakneck pacing carrying Barry Johnson's strangled wailing. While Cody is still a far cry from mainstream pop punk, with the help of producer Rob Schnapf, Joyce Manor have rounded off a great many of their previous edges to bring forth a tremendously powerful album.Over the course of ten songs, the four-piece maintain their signature, jangly sound, but it's less dissonant this time around.
A stunning effort from the emo-punks. “This song is a mess, but so am I” sings Joyce Manor’s Barry Johnson on the closing line of ‘Cody’. That may have been true of the Californians’ chaotic emo-punk debut, but it’s actually a far cry from this latest album’s ambitious leanings.Expanding on 2014’s more mature ‘Never Hungover Again’ this fourth full-length is packed with heart-on-sleeve anecdotes, ranging from playfully upbeat (‘Fake I.D.’) and Weezer-esque (‘Last You Heard Of Me’) to dark and painfully honest (‘Do You Really Want To Get Better’).A brief but superb collection, this cements them as one of the most compelling acts in their genre.
In 2014, Joyce Manor released a truly amazing pop-punk record called Never Hungover Again, which positioned the Torrance, California foursome as kin to pop-punk greats like Blink-182, Weezer, and Jawbreaker. Like those groups, they share the same penchant for suburban ennui, self-indulgent melancholy (“I hate the way I feel like dying when I’m alone”), and loud anthems cherished by quiet people. But for their fourth record, Cody, Joyce Manor decided to change their process a bit and take a few risks.
This past fall, touring behind his sleek, jubilant debut album, Rachet, Las Vegas dance pop artist Shamir would occasionally play an unusual cover song: “Christmas Card”, a cut from Joyce Manor’s 2014 breakout album Never Hungover Again. The pick was surprising because, on paper, there are no similarities between Shamir’s disco revival and the pop punk clamor of Joyce Manor. But it worked nonetheless.
That lyric comes from Cody’s infectious first single, “Fake I.D.”, which reveals Barry Johnson, Joyce Manor’s leader singer, guitarist, and lyricist, as a funny and perceptive writer of youth culture in the tradition of Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig or the 1975’s Matthew Healy. Despite punk featuring some of the underground music’s most utilitarian voices throughout its history, it’s largely been sequestered from the larger indie and pop music conversation to the early ‘00s peak and flameout that’s left a bitter taste on many critical tongues. It’s telling that “Fake I.D.‘s” lyrics have led much of the conversation regarding Cody in the Twitter-verse.
Californian emo-punk darlings Joyce Manor have seen quite the rise in their still relatively short career. Over the course of three records since 2011, they've grown in size exponentially. From the incredibly humble beginnings of their excellent self-titled debut, they garnered a cult following which quickly got them bigger label interest (Asian Man/Big Scary Monsters' 2012 release Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired) meteorically rising to Epitaph with 2014's Never Hungover Again.
When it was time to follow up their excellent 2014 album, Never Hungover Again, Joyce Manor made a couple of big mistakes. First, they booked a real studio and hired alt-rock veteran producer Rob Schnapf, then they listened to him when he made "suggestions." The band had previously recorded in bedrooms and basements, getting a lo-fi sound that was raw but thrillingly alive, and totally suited to their desperately emotional style. On Cody, they worked in a real studio, with lots of time and money to spare, they got the benefit of Schnapf's skills at flattening out bumps and smoothing over any sonic disruptions, and most crucially, they were the recipients of his knowledge of how songs are supposed to be structured.
Sometimes bands need to grow up. That’s the realization that Torrance, California’s Joyce Manor have come to with album four. As fun as it’s been for them to be the secret of their diehard fans, the rest of the world is calling. Cody is their second full-length since signing to Epitaph for 2014’s Never Hungover Again, which finally got them the critical attention they deserved.
Anxiety about aging courses inexorably through “Cody,” the fourth album by the sterling pop-punk group Joyce Manor, taking on many forms along the way: acknowledgment of the gap between what you like and what the kids like, acceptance that growing older does not always come with actual personal evolution, recognition that the exuberance of youth was just a performance, and so many more. That the frontman, Barry Johnson, would arrive at these realizations has seemed clear since his band’s 2011 self-titled debut. The pop-punk that Joyce Manor inherited was often juvenile and sometimes puerile, self-loathing but rarely sympathetic.
Frontman Barry Johnson is not tired of talking about the most distinct line on Joyce Manor’s addictive new album, Cody, a record packed with immediately hummable, shoutable and/or tweetable lyrics. In fact, he hasn’t talked about it enough. “No one’s ever asked me, genuinely, what I think of Kanye West,” he recently groused, referring to the hook on “Fake I.D.,” in which the postmortem of a giddy hookup is a disappointing conversation about taste.
Joyce Manor broke out on the strength of a blisteringly catchy debut album that had basically crossed enemy lines. The band was held in high regard both by fresh-faced, college-age music fans flocking to the band’s emotionally ragged lyrics as well as by the bearded, beer-swilling Peter Pans whose annual holiday weekend falls right around whenever The Fest kicks off. But Joyce Manor was, and continues to be, a band far bolder than its peers in either scene.