In the mid 2000’s, the punk subgenres, pop-punk and emo, reached the height of their mainstream popularity. Naturally, with mainstream popularity, comes an overabundance of mediocrity. Bands like My Chemical Romance, Panic! At the Disco, and All Time Low, took those respective genres to nearly satirical heights, favoring theatrics and overtly radio-friendly melodies–ubiquitously satisfying everyone from middle school “scene kids” to suburban soccer moms. Around this time, hundreds of imitators had amassed, each hoping to be Fueled by Ramens next big heavyweight.
Of course, like every trend, the hype died. People stopped caring, and the fad was buried alongside nu-metal and post-grunge. Fortunately, for music fans everywhere, pop-punk/emo would see a bevy of artists that still embraced the genres’ rawer, aggressive roots. Joyce Manor, as you probably already know, is one of those bands. Joyce Manor’s fourth album, Cody, seems to hit all the nodes that originally befell emo/pop-punk– from its new producer, to its cleaner, lengthier tracks. Thankfully, the result is anything but a “sellout” album. Instead, Cody is a cohesive, dynamic record, and shows that Joyce Manor is a band discontent with routine.
Each somber track on Cody is brought to life through singer/guitarist Barry Johnson’s vivid lyrics and fervent vocals. “Afraid to live my life/maybe tomorrow,” is sung on the albums third track, “Angel in the Snow,” and exhibits Johnson’s unease towards the uncertainty and future of his adulthood. Unease that is further displayed on the second track “Eighteen,” where he reflects on a teenage perspective of aging: “it’s getting harder to deal with/it’s nothing to fear, easy for you to say.” The penultimate “Stairs,” tells a melancholic story brought to life through eerie, self-indulgent lyrics. Lines like, “oh, I can’t do laundry/Christ, I can’t do dishes/what’ll I do without you,” detail a lover that Johnson is seemingly dependent on. “Stairs” also breaks new ground as the longest Joyce Manor song to date, clocking in at just over four minutes.
Despite Cody’s passive lyricism, each track on the record is offset by catchy, addictive, pop-punk melodies. However, the singles, “Fake I.D.” and “Last You Heard of Me,” are slightly more cheerful in tone than the rest of the album. Groovy, rhythmic guitars, and a danceable melody make, “Last You Heard of Me,” the epitome of a pop-punk anthem, and will surely have fans screaming and dancing along at future shows.
From its hazy guitar riffs and crisp production, to Johnson’s clean, intelligible vocals, the opening track, “Fake I.D.,” almost sounds like something off The Strokes debut album This Is It. Recounting a one-night stand, Johnson has obviously grown bored, or annoyed with the girl he’s sleeping with, singing “don’t be fooled/the first two hours ruled.” He continues to lose interest when she expresses an admiration of Kanye West, now singing from her perspective “yeah, I think he’s better than John Steinbeck/I think he’s better than Phil Hartman.” Although, the lyrics on “Fake I.D.” seem somewhat disjointed in the context of the whole record, but the songs hilarious accuracy more than make up for it.
Cody is an obvious, well executed, turning point for Joyce Manor. It’s unfortunate, but many bands that take a musical step in a new direction, do not always succeed. Joyce Manor has done a fantastic job, taking these steps gradually, without losing the fidelity fans recognize. Does Cody live up to 2014’s excellent Never Hungover Again? Maybe not, but that’s precisely the point of the album. It doesn’t have to.