Review Summary: Joyce Manor writes the record they've always wanted to write.
After over a year of crafting new songs, a scrapped first round of recordings, and reworking of several songs, Joyce Manor has created a grand 13 minute adventure where repeated ideas are not found throughout. With their fans' expectations at a peak, they've released a record that will leave some fans behind, but leave others in awe.
The opening song "These Kind Of Ice Skates" starts strong and has a slow punk groove that pulls you along while it paces onward. It eventually takes a smooth but sudden 180 into a discordant flurry of noise over a sapmle from a 70's dating show " 'If I told you that i was really ugly but I had strong bones and healthy teeth, would you still want to take me out?', 'Sure, I have a nice farm I think I could use you on' ", followed by laughter and a thunderous applause coupled with the rattling of a snare and repeated strumming, creating tension that comes to an abrupt end. This track warns you to expect the unexpected. The next track jumps in immediately. "Comfortable Clothes" is an upbeat punk song that could easily fit in with songs from their S/T. Towards the end of the song, frontman Barry Johnson belts out four words on the top of his lungs "I FEEL SOO!.. ALOOONE!", it quickly becomes apparent that he has still has the ability to write painfully honest punk songs. "See How Tame I Can Be?" is the first song to showcase Joyce Manor experimenting with some lo-fi, a sound they created by recording into "the educator", a tape recorder that is also used to listen to audiobooks on tape. The result is slinky sounding guitars and a fuzzy but tame atmosphere. This playful pop song is a great highlight on the record. There's a vibe of monotony from the words being sung, "In the reflection I watched myself watching TV, and it's too much to take and so I say to myself 'I never told you that I loved you because I don't' ". "Drainage" also keeps with the lo-fi theme but shows a darker side of Joyce Manor with an acoustic guitar, a piano, and lots of white noise. This song really touches on their Guided By Voices influence.
Side B of the record kicks off with an ambitious cover of The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star”, adding their own melodic punk sound to one of their all-time favorites. This is the only song on the record that features singing from the bassist Matt Ebert, and it adds some great variety. "If I Needed You There" rushes in full force with a speed that hasn't been heard since their Constant Headache EP. It includes some keyboard notes, ironically placing keys in both the calmest song and most intense song on the record. It's a minute long jam that doesn't hold back. "Bride of Usher" takes what "See How Tame I Can Be?" started and adds clarity along with a more solid, up tempo beat that you can't help but nod or clap too. It gets cues from 80's music likes The Smiths and Pat Benatar. The lyrics first mention the past, but then tosses that away and celebrates the present "No I don't remember anyone I haven't seen for years, I don't remember being anywhere but here". "Violent Inside" is a pop jam that utilizes a drum beat that is reminiscent of "21st Dead Rats" from the S/T, but it's much slower and more controlled. Barry also really shows off his smoother singing that contrasts the frenzied yelling heard throughout the S/T. "I'm Always Tired" feels like an epilogue to the record. It's a quick strumming lo-fi acoustic song; a subtle return to roots, as Joyce Manor started out as an acoustic punk duo.
Overall, the record does lack flow, but i think that's the point. They rapidly fire off different ideas in the attempt to never give you the urge to hit the skip button and I think they've managed to do just that