Review Summary: The best in pop punk release another banger.
Today's pop punk scene is cluttered with flocks of commonplace bands regurgitating the same songs, structures, and lyrics over and over again. The genre is watered down with bands that have become mockeries and the style is often times sarcastically summed up as "pizza, cutting ties, and I'm not sad anymore."
It is Chicago, Illinois's Knuckle Puck that breaks the trend of mediocrity. Repeatedly churning out strong songs and EPs, the band is at the forefront of pop punk and has some of the best potential in the whole genre. Forming around 2012, the band released their first EP Don't Come Home, warming up fans for the onslaught of passion that is 2013's The Weight That You Buried. The EP landed the band on larger tours and national attraction BledFest, obtaining a larger following. Fast forward to 2014, Knuckle Puck releases a split with England's Neck Deep, featuring two songs that outweigh their past material, showcasing their guitarist Nick Casasanto's vocals, and the 7" Oak Street, prefacing their newest effort, While I Stay Secluded.
"Transparency", the opener, begins with the familiar snare roll and pick slide buildups characterized with pop punk, soon opening up into a hook and the pleasing sound of vocalist Joe Taylor's piercing voice. Taylor is one of pop punks best vocalists, in the same league at The Story So Far's Parker Cannon and The Wonder Years' Dan "Soupy" Campbell. The song rolls on through a roller coaster of verses and choruses before breaking down into the ending, unveiling the band's newfound strong layered guitar work. Continuing through previously released "Oak Street", the EP ends up at "In My Room", a song featuring dueling vocals and slower passages.
The frequent inclusion of the guitarist's vocals is a welcome addition, as his voice adds a unique dynamic that should have been present in more of the old material, as evident in album closer "Bedford Falls". Left handed drummer John Siorek supplies interesting grooves throughout the songs, keeping the movement intriguing and making it almost impossible to stop nodding your head. The beat in the bridge of "But Why Would You Care?" is especially noteworthy.
The only gripe with this EP, and maybe all of Knuckle Puck's work, is that they never seem to advance their sound. While they always compose strong songs, they leave no surprises. The record winds on, following the same structure as their past releases. Build up, guitar lead, fast beat, verse, maybe a clean interlude, and an ending meant to be chanted at shows filled with stagedivers and crowdsurfers. It is also time for the band to release a full length. This is their third EP, which proceeds two seven inches. While I Stay Secluded could've easily included four more tracks if the band spent more time writing and tweaking.
Chicago's Knuckle Puck releases another great EP, providing new breakup anthems and late night hooks. The band remains at the top of their league, and continues their streak of solid release after solid release. Sadly, the EP doesn't show any signs of growth, and there is really nothing new here. While I Stay Secluded will certainly tide fans over until their next release, and is an admirable addition to the band's music.