Review Summary: Unrealised potential.
Sometime around the seventh or eighth listen (or alternatively, sometime around your seventh or eighth beer) Joyce Manor’s debut album just clicks. This is curious, considering the simplicity and immediacy of it. However its its pop sensibilities become much more enjoyable with the necessity of familiarity. After all, that album was essentially just one big sing-a-long, and it was all the better for it. The band’s compositional skills created a structurally sound record, and their musicianship provided interesting focal points throughout. However, Joyce Manor’s penchant for a catchy melody and fast-talking one-liners that capture a certain espirit de la jeunesse
was ultimately their debut’s defining characteristic.
So it is unfortunate that Joyce Manor’s efforts to mature and write more progressive music neglect this youthful vitality, whilst their efforts to write similarly-veined pop-punk songs largely yield disappointing results. Many songs here seem strangely and frustratingly incomplete. The tunnel of distortion at the end of opener, ‘These Kind of Ice Skates’
hits a wall, ending abruptly and unnaturally. The largely acoustic ‘Drainage’
intrigues with its minimalistic, near-hymnal piano accompaniment, but structurally, it is much too one-dimensional. The more complex songs here hint at progression, but ultimately shy away, ending fruitlessly and infuriatingly prematurely.
Amidst such unrealised ambition it is perhaps unsurprising that ‘Of All Things…’s better moments are those where Joyce Manor cling unabashedly to their pop-punk roots. ‘Comfortable Clothes’
is straightforward, twee and confident and enjoyably captures the fast-talking, fast-moving youthfulness that pervaded their self-titled album. Similarly, ‘If I Needed You There’
is succinct rather than insufficient and retains a swaggering a sense of fun that much of the album is void of. However, generally speaking Joyce Manor’s ability to pen catchy, meaningful pop songs appears to be somewhat diminished on ‘Of All Things…’ and this is a great shame. After all, this is what their music is reliant on; without it, the album feels disappointingly hollow at times.
Sophomore releases are notoriously difficult because of perceived pressure owing to lack of time and confusion concerning a band’s next direction, and it seems Joyce Manor fall victim to both here. By and large, ‘Of All Things…’ feels much too rushed, with most songs sounding hastily arranged and, in some cases, unfinished. The nine songs on display here accumulate a meagre 13-minute running time and consequently very few are afforded time to adequately develop. Therefore, any evolution the band may have aimed for (and at times this certainly feels like it is the case) is ultimately rendered obsolete. Still, Joyce Manor clearly have a lot going for them – an ability to write fun, relatable and catchy punk songs, and perhaps, greater ambitions – but unfortunately this potential is largely squandered on ‘Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired’.