If I had to describe the new album from pop-punk legends Joyce Manor in one sentence, it would be: “Cody” is more than just an album; it is a tribute to age, growing, learning and losing. And, most of all, to their musical history and the three records that precede their latest release.
Of course, a single-sentence summary can defeat the purpose of an album review, but for “Cody” it is essential to assert right from the start how important this record is for the band, and by extension, to the entire pop-punk scene of the last few years.
“Cody” kicks off with Fake I.D. and an Arctic Monkeys-esque riff, before vocalist Barry Johnson launches into one of his characteristic, uncannily relatable tropes about adolescence and growing up. It’s ironic that at the same time Johnson sings about an arguably juvenile topic, the maturity in his voice is evident when compared to the band’s first release, “Joyce Manor,” in 2011.
Eighteen follows, another heartfelt, coming-of-age type track that Joyce Manor always manage to pull off flawlessly, which leads into a tom-heavy drum beat and uncomplex guitar riff that drive the album’s third track Angel In The Snow. Do You Really Want to Not Get Better? sees the band abandon their trademark pop-punk energy for an emotional acoustic ballad about love and loss, and is a testament to just how skilful a writer Johnson is with his simple yet incredibly poignant lyrical style.
Fifth track Last You Heard of Me resumes the previous pace of the album, telling a story about, you guessed it, “the last you heard of me.” Johnson’s storytelling is once more something to be admired, supported by light melodies and musical simplicity in all the right places.
No stranger to albums on the shorter side of things, track six Make Me Dumb marks the halfway point of the record. This is the heaviest (heaviest in the context of pop-punk, that is) song from “Cody,” with a slightly deeper feel to a more prominent instrumentation, combined with a guitar riff that repeats and runs throughout.
Over Before It Began speaks of friendships and relationships with some nice little melodies in between, a theme continued by eighth track Reversing Machine with a sound highly reminiscent to that of Joyce Manor’s earlier works.
Stairs and This Song Is A Mess But So Am I finish up the album and are my favourite tracks from the whole record. I think it’s super exciting when an album’s best songs are at the end of the album because they’re sort of like little, hidden gems that you’re not always expecting when you listen.
I digress; the lyrics of Stairs are exceptionally clever concerning both their humorous relatability and seemingly light-hearted discussion of death, what can (for obvious reasons) be quite a grave topic.
With a title like This Song Is A Mess But So Am I you know you’re in for something good, and Joyce Manor doesn’t fail to deliver. The subtle ambiguity of the lyrics lives up to the name of the track, while instrumentation and vocal delivery reflect the classic, well-loved Joyce Manor sound to create a welcome little reminder of exactly who they are. With “Cody,” it’ll be hard to forget them.