Friday, April 6, 2012

Album Review: Joyce Manor - Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired

Album Rating: B-
Joyce Manor really found themselves a sound with Constant Headache and their 2011 self-titled.  Both records bled with the raw embitterment of their local Southern California punk scene yet somehow grasped onto an impossible level of catchiness, affording them multiple U.S. tours and leaving a slew of hoarse-throated basement punks in their wake.  Frontman Barry Johnson summed it up pretty effectively when questioned about his tendency for sub-two minute power-tracks in an interview: "You're taking the time to listen to my band … so I'm not going to have the audacity to bore the shit out of you."  It was exactly on this compendiousness that a band like Joyce Manor is founded, this same urgency and succinct song structure being the crux of a record like Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired.  All of this said, 2012 Joyce Manor is a band coasting not only on brevity, but also on tradeoffs.

No truly great band can throw the same record together over and over with the expectation of a satisfied audience, a blunder successfully dodged by Joyce Manor.  That notion in mind, Of All Things… is, among other things, a step in a relatively different direction for the punk foursome.  Right from the onslaught of opener 'These Kind of Ice Skates', it becomes fairly obvious that 2012 Joyce Manor does not sound like 2011 or 2010 Joyce Manor.  The impatient, flawlessly articulated scream-alongs like 'Call Out' and 'Constant Nothing' have made way for what tends to be a decidedly less-motivated craft, a song like 'Bride of Usher' sounding more like a misguided Hall & Oates cover than the product of some noisy SoCal punks.  Even Joyce Manor's less urgent side has slacked some on OATIWSGT, with flawlessly anthemic punk ballads swapped out for a more constricted breed of songwriting.  Where a track like 'Five Beer Plan' was a writhing sonic masterpiece, its alleged counterpart in 'Drainage' more closely resembles the frayed shoelace ends that once held the former together.  Obviously not all is lost; 'Violent Inside' and 'If I Needed You There' ring true of the Joyce Manor bite that's impossible not to love.  Of All Things… still packs plenty of punch into its dreadfully brief playtime, the band's battle-hardened disposition forced upon listeners via blistering tracks and their indomitable leader in Johnson.  It just seems to be a little too obvious that not every song here can commit to this ferocity as past efforts have, with substantial chunks of the already length-challenged release coming off more as demure filler than vein-throbbing punk rock.

To call Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired a "forgettable" record would be mislead and erroneous, but "underwhelming" certainly might be justifiable.  Joyce Manor deserve unprecedented amounts of love and esteem for how quickly and unforgettably they've made themselves known on an otherwise unforgiving scene.  It just might be the case that said scene ought to show some leniency to a band with only the best intentions making what are (hopefully) no more than some rookie mistakes.  Yes, parts of Of All Things… are, for lack of a better term, questionable.  Yet what isn't up for question is the fact that Joyce Manor will continue to fill basements and bars with their anthemic and truly unforgettable presence.  Sure, even that life is something of which Johnson & co. will eventually tire, but it's the time between then and now that's worth celebrating.  I know for a fact that I'll still be singing along.

Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired is now available on iTunes.

1. These Kind of Ice Skates
2. Comfortable Clothes
3. See How Tame I Can Be
4. Drainage
5. Video Killed the Radio Star
6. If I Needed You There
7. Bride of Usher
8. Violent Inside
9. I'm Always Tired

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