As much as their influences are obvious and clearly displayed, and as much as they are indicative of a trend that they are more or less leaders of, there’s no one quite like Joyce Manor. Having altered course fairly dramatically on 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, the band set out to distinguish themselves from the average pop punk Tumblrcore band, with which they were seemingly associated after the release of their first album. Baring influences from all over the alternative rock landscape, that album was highly divisive among fans. On Never Hungover Again, the band purports to be returning to form ala their self-titled debut. This, however, is misleading. Like their debut, it’s longer than Of All Things…, coming in at just under 20 minutes rather than a mere 15, and as tempting as it is to write this review proportional to the length of the album, there is simply too much to say about this – and I cannot stress this enough – important band. It is, however, not exactly like either of their previous records. It is neither deliberately inaccessible like their second album, nor is it exactly what the Defend Pop Punk crowd wants, which is probably a clone of their first album. As a result, they find themselves courting a rather different crowd – they did an interview with Noisey – Vice magazine’s music blog – recently, they’ve been featured on Pitchfork, and are, bewilderingly, playing alongside lo-fi magnates The Growlers this fall at that band’s annual Beach Goth party, along with another band rising in prominence among hipsters from their sphere of the punk world, Andrew Jackson Jihad (although Wu-Tang Clan’s Gza is also playing there, so maybe this means nothing in context).
But I digress. This album has no equivalent to “Constant Headache,” nor does it have an obvious analog to “Video Killed The Radio Star” – but it does have excellent tracks that are legitimate triumphs rather than simple reaction to their past successes. In the aforementioned Noisey review, they asserted that, to the outsider, Joyce Manor is essentially the same as The Wonder Years. This isn’t to say they’re admitting defeat and gearing up for a lifetime of playing Warped Tour -it’s simple fact, and this because they share obvious influences. However, one listen to Joyce Manor shows that they’re an infinitely more mature band than Dan Campbell & co, who sing about how mature they’re getting. This maturity stems from the fact that Joyce Manor exists outside the purview of niche geographical tendencies or supposed genealogies. Yes, they share influences, but that’s because Joyce Manor’s influences are, well, everyone in pop punk – everyone from Screeching Weasel to TTTYG-era Fall Out Boy, from Jawbreaker to Blink-182, from Descendents to The Get Up Kids. Then add in a healthy dose of Weezer, Pavement, The Smiths, and The Cure, and you’ve got Never Hungover Again.
For your consideration – “Heart Tattoo,” which has a coda that I’m not entirely convinced doesn’t feature Tom DeLonge doing background vocals; “Victoria,” which would be utterly dominating 120 Minutes if it were 1994; “Schley,” the characteristically deceptive lead single which Trojan-horses us into thinking the rest of the album will be the by-the-numbers sequel of their first album, all the while containing all the elements of change that Hungover truly represents; “In The Army Now,” a sonic homage to their hardcore roots with some of the most serious lyrics on the album; and of course, “Heated Swimming Pool,” the sentimental epilogue that will leave you already nostalgic for an album that came out last month.
If this album doesn’t affect you in some way, you’re not paying attention. If you’re bemoaning this album because it was released on a label not run by Mike Park, and therefore hate all the twinkly guitars or the guitar leads or the keyboards on “Falling In Love Again,” you’re taking this too seriously. If you don’t get what it’s about or think it all sounds the same, don’t worry, you won’t hear the end of it from your friends. If you’re just getting turned onto this band by this album, you could go back and listen to their old albums, but this wouldn’t really give you much more than some historical context, because this is by far their greatest achievement.
Recommended Tracks: Schley, Heart Tattoo, In The Army Now, Heated Swimming Pool