March 30, 2012

Album Review: Joyce Manor's Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired

There is a fine line in punk rock that separates the bands who produce great songs but don't necessarily expect you to take their artistic merits too seriously (Jawbreaker, Nirvana) and then there are those who beg you to deconstruct their sound down to a science (Fugazi, Fucked Up) Bay Area melodic punk quartet and BUZZSound alum Joyce Manor are a rarity in the spectrum in that their influences lie within the former but have still managed to attract a higher brow indie appeal thanks to the company they keep (They're opening for No Age, Ceremony, Screaming Females and Gun Outfit at this year's Chaos in Tejas, for example.) It's no surprise that their self-titled debut was an instantaneously popular listen last year with the critical punk mass, and now Joyce Manor is capitalizing on the all-encompassing curious attention with a short-lengthed-but-long-titled sophomore LP Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired.

At just 13 minutes and four seconds, Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired is roughly five minutes shorter than the band's debut and takes less time to listen to than your standard EP. That's not completely unheard of in the realm of punk and hardcore, but it's at the very least worth mentioning considering this is arguably Joyce Manor's moment to make a lasting impression. Fortunately, writing straight-up, to-the-point scrappy tracks that kick you off your feet in a couple of verses and a hook is part of Joyce Manor's appeal. Like kindred spirits such as the aforementioned Jawbreaker and early Alkaline Trio, angsty, emotive gut-wrenchers alongside frontman Barry Johnson's grating vocals ("These Kind of Ice Skates," "Comfortable Clothes," "If I Needed You There") consume the majority of the LP. Along the way however, the Torrance, CA quartet tosses a few curve balls into the stereo that Joyce Manor use to bounce some out-of-the-box ideas off pop punk's over-simplified formula. Their surprising reinterpretation of The Buggles' 1979 hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" strips the new wave classic of its poppy synths and douses it with four-chord aggression while "Bride of Usher"'s hop-scotch guitars are a serious nod to Johnny Marr's smooth Smiths-era strumming. "Violent Inside," the album's obvious single, on the other hand plays like a half-shrugged tease toward airplay indifference.

Despite its brief play length, it took several spins of Of All Things... to take it all in. The mistake I made was looking too deep for some sort of punk rock revelation, and in actuality, that revelation is right there on the surface. Their sophomore effort is a representation of youthful, impassioned pop punk at the purest form. As Joyce Manor champions an under-celebrated DIY culture made for sweaty, awkward-looking listeners packed inside basements, they're making a lasting impression not through hour-long epics or curtailing punk ethos into other genres, but by writing music completely devoid of self-awareness. Isn't that what punk rock is supposed to be?

Joyce Manor's Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired will be released April 17, 2012 on Asian Man Records.

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