Album Reviews

Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

on July 23, 2014, 12:01am
Joyce Manor Never Hungover Again C+
Release Date
July 22, 2014
Label
Epitaph
Formats
digital, vinyl, cd

Just 20 minutes long, the quick slice of time that is Joyce Manor’s second LP swings dramatically between belly laughs and gut punches. Mostly, though, it dishes out the latter. Never Hungover Again represents a tightening of the California punk band’s sound and also a new stroke of bravery. The album, produced by Joe Reinhardt, breaches a higher fidelity than either their self-titled debut from 2011 or 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired. The lyrics, which are personal to the brink of emo, ring clearly on Barry Johnson’s voice. Their third time around, Joyce Manor sound like they’re taking themselves more seriously.

Never Hungover Again will probably be the first album many people hear from this band, and in some ways it does feel like a proper debut after two records of playful, hesitant sketches. The sound is crisp and Johnson sings boldly. But it wears so many well-trod markers of pop punk that it struggles to rise from the backwash of young bands blasting power chords from scuffed-up Strats in ongoing homage to Stiff Little Fingers and the Queers.

The song that works best here is also the one that covers the least ground — a small patch of skin, actually. “Heart Tattoo” cracks the old heart-on-sleeve metaphor against a perfectly buoyant guitar progression, but it skirts cliche by staying as literal as possible. On the surface, Johnson is pretty much just singing about getting a tattoo in the shape of a heart. Beneath the skin, he hints at layers of inadequacy, insecurity, and fear without forcing them into the song’s sunny bounce. “I know that it looks bad,” bassist Matt Ebert chimes in at the background, “but it’s the only one I have.”

The album’s heavier points tend to slant alternately intriguing and confusing. On “In the Army Now”, Johnson sings, “I want to kiss you through your hockey mask ’cause we’re in the army now,” an image that’s twistedly resonant, if difficult to grasp. Romantic abandonment coincides with military service in the world of Joyce Manor. “I always knew you’d leave me someday/ I always knew you’d join the army,” sings Johnson, and unlike “Heart Tattoo”, it’s unclear if the song is literal or wielding an extravagant, suspended metaphor.

Closer “Heated Swimming Pool” cuts harshest despite its loose, uptempo guitar work. “I wish you would’ve died in high school/ So you could be somebody’s idol,” Johnson seethes. The words are mean and the song is not, but Joyce Manor is the sort of band to wrap their poison up in candy. It just feels like they could have played around with more flavors between sweet and deadly.

Essential Tracks: “Heart Tattoo”

3 comments

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francoroks
July 24, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Dude, it’s like you’re just reviewing the worst tracks on this album. Heart Tattoo is great, obviously. In The Army Now and Heated Swimming Pool are the least heaviest songs on this album. Tracks like Victoria, Catalina Fight Song and The Jerk are in standard Joyce Manor fashion quick and fairly emotional. They grow as a band with tracks like Schley, Christmas Card, and Falling in Love Again, where they manage to create great builds that lead to breakdowns that make you wonder how well a song can be crafted in under 3 minutes. It’s like they took the best parts of pop punk and emo and mashed them together. Your comment that the band “wraps their poison in candy” is actually the brilliance of the band. The facade of the songs makes you think that the band is just a bunch of kids makes simple pop punk, but once you realize the deeper meanings and lyrics in the songs, you discover the layers of brilliance in this album. There’s no way this album flies down to a C+. Listen deeper to the music before you put it in a box.

A hero means
September 6, 2014 at 11:54 am

I completely agree with this. Viscerally, “Heart Tattoo” is one of the least reactive songs on the album because it’s too straight-forward. “The Jerk” is personally my favorite because of it’s dynamics- after all Joyce Manor is supposed to make you truly feel those emotions. Without a climax such as “I wanna see what’s going on/ over your shoulder but it all goes wrong” or even the guitar interlude in between the chorus and verse of “Victoria”, the album wouldn’t have it’s little bits of extreme energy. If someone didn’t like it, that is completely different from getting it.

Joseph L.
July 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Hey, great review. I agree with most your points but was hoping you could expand more on your closing point. Personally, I feel like Joyce Manor shines through in their extremes. This CD is new, but when I think of what makes Joyce Manor stand out its always their (emotionally) hard hitting tracks, Constant Headache, Derailed, Leather Jacket, and Constant Nothing. I feel like Joyce Manors best performances are at their sweetest and deadliest. What do you feel was missing?

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