Back in 2014 Joyce Manor were flung head first into the mainstream world of modern pop punk with their third album ‘Never Hungover Again’. The four-piece hailing from California, have relentlessly worked their way to their place as a modern pioneer of the genre, receiving praise from pretty much every iconic great in the business, from Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, to Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus. Their new album Cody has largely been referred to as a change of pace for the band, but in reality, is best described as a slight change of course.
Joyce Manor have always had a signature sound, one that’s gone on to inspire an entire generation, or wave if you like, of pop punk musicians writing songs to be listened to alone in your room. Their view of the genre is less about being confused by the world around them, and more about being confused by the emotions that world brings up. Where the first wave of the movement would have performed songs on a grand scale, spewing out facts and figures to illustrate the extent of issues. Joyce Manor have set themselves apart from that generation of music by addressing issues in a far more personal way, take ‘Do You Really Wanna Not Get Better’, it’s a reflection of singer and lead guitarist Barry Johnson’s experiences, almost like a pop punk case study. It’s honest, heartfelt and 100% real, and that’s exactly what Joyce Manor fans will have been looking for in the bands fourth album.
There’s a track or two that makes the decision to slightly break away from emotional reality for a more uplifting feel. Fake I.D. for example opens the album to joyful choruses, “what do you think about Kanye West? I think that he’s great, I think he’s the best”. But even here, nestled within sway inducing guitar riffs, are serious opinions, comments and messages. Fake I.D. finishing on the sombre “cause my friend Brandon died, And I feel sad, I miss him, he was rad”, is just one of many examples of the hard hitting frank speech that occasionally kicks your emotions to attention. Californian writing for the disenfranchised at its finest.
A lot of artists in the same vein as Joyce Manor start to have issues with connecting with their audience when they start to hit the 30 mark. Now in their late 20’s, it’s a position the four piece find themselves hitting. Can you really take a middle-aged man talking about hating the home town he’s apparently trapped in seriously? Joyce Manor don’t bother wasting time with gimmicks though, and with Cody write from their own current experiences. Rather than complain about the issues facing youth, they decide instead to tackle those they face as they find themselves leaving it. Track Angel in the Snow, has Johnson asking “How come nothing amazes me?” , and rather than coming off as angsty and desperate, it just sounds like the truth.
Joyce Manor continue to stay on the right side of the divide between honest and whiney throughout Cody, and manage to make it seem an easy feat. Whether they’ll one day be lost under a new wave of pop punk that they themselves have inspired is entirely possible, and perhaps we’ll lose sight of Joyce Manor in the mainstream. But as long as they keep writing and evolving on albums like Cody, there honest voice and sound will always have a place with their fans, and in the wider music landscape.