Artist: Joyce Manor
Album: Joyce Manor
Genre: Pop Punk
It’s funny how the same things you once loved about a person can eventually make you hate them. Last Saturday, after working a twelve hour shift in the pouring rain, I was sitting outside my girlfriend’s house, smoking a cigarette, trying to work up the nerve to dump her. I leaned on my car, watching a duck standing in a storm drain. The duck stared listlessly ahead at the running water. What was the duck thinking? Where were his duck friends and family? Did he know that there was a bonafide lake less than a mile away? Why did he not acknowledge the human staring at him? Was I a witness to the duck version of an existential breakdown?
[quote] I finished my cigarette, went in and began asking my girlfriend the questions that had been occupying my mind, starting with that perennial question: “Do you ever wonder about ducks?”. She had been expecting ‘a talk’, which I had very conspicuously been avoiding for a month, and stared at me incredulously, wondering just what I was trying to say. [/quote]
“What do you mean?” she quizzed me, disbelieving. I wasn’t speaking in metaphors. I was actually wondering about ducks. Maybe I felt like that duck. Maybe I thought she felt like that duck. Maybe no one but that duck ever felt like that duck did that night, standing in the warm March rain, in a graffiti covered sewage ditch in a mid-sized college town, feeling all of that muddy water roll over webbed feet, and staring at the cheap plastic siding of apartment buildings.
I told her all of this. Every thought that was crossing my mind in regards to the duck who was standing in the drain. She grew wide eyed and more than a little angry. “Will you just fucking drop the duck thing?” she asked, her voice high pitched and whiny, perhaps thinking that I was using the duck as an excuse to avoid the conversation that we both knew was coming. “What the fuck are you getting at?”
But I wasn’t getting at anything, I was genuinely concerned by the duck, and more than a little fixated. The duck had come to represent something to me, and if I could just figure out what it was, just focus on it, perhaps my whole life would become clear in the flash of an eye. But her anger pulled me back to the situation at hand.
This is what I do: I personify objects and non-human animals; becoming attached to them more than people. Some people might view this little quirk as charming or funny, but to this young lady who had put up with it for seven months, it was obviously more than a little grating. I saw a flash of rage form in her eyes and specks of spit flicked on the corner of her lips as my mouth formed the words “duck” again. I had meant to drop it, I really had.
Fixations, quirks, they’re part of my style, things I always take a little too far. I’m the last one joking about a subject when it’s not funny anymore, the last one awake at four o’clock in the morning, the one thinking about a goddamn duck in the rain for an hour and a half when I should be letting this girl know to move on.
So, when I heard Joyce Manor for the first time, I knew that I’d found kindred spirits. As I heard the first lines of the second song (“Call Out”), I knew right away that this was for real. This was exactly how I felt over the past month as she had pleaded with me to know what was wrong with me, why I being such a dick: “I would say I’m sorry/but I’m not sorry/I would say hey what’s the difference?/Entertain my lack of interest.”
Yes, it would be more than fair to say that I connected with this album on a very visceral level, in a way I haven’t connected with any album since Touché Amoré’s Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, scrobbling some 214 Joyce Manor plays over the past two weeks, which doesn’t include the four hours of listening to it I did at work on that day when I finally ended up driving to her house and becoming fixated on a duck.
I can’t say that Joyce Manor is a visionary glimpse of the future of pop punk, but it’s a damn site better than anything I’ve heard out of a genre that has long since grown stale with imitators and slickly produced commercial shit. In fact, it may be that the album is the perfect distillation of the classics of the genre: Milo Goes to College, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, Unfun, Anthem for a New Tomorrow, Through Being Cool, all of them are present, the self conscious singer, the lyrics that alternate between bravado and love sickness, the bouncy bass, the crunchy rhythm guitar, the sung/shouted lyrics.
In fact, the comparison to Jawbreaker might be the most accurate. Despite the fact that the two singers don’t sound a damn thing like each other, there is more than a bit of Blake Schwarzenbach in the lyrics. The transitions between the literal and the abstract, the tendency to place lovers on pedestal in one song, only to tear them down the next, it all feels so Schwarzenbachesque. Even the title of some songs recall Jawbreaker (how far is it from the “Ashtray Monument” to the “Ashtray Petting Zoo”?). Still, despite the obvious influence (and you could do much worse than Jawbreaker as an influence) the album manages to bring out the best parts of those albums without being derivative.
In summation, big ups to 51jack for the best recommendation I’ve gotten from this thread. Check out Joyce Manor if you like any of the early pop punk stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph and you are guaranteed a solid album that never overstays its welcome and knows when to cut its losses and head home.
Favorite tracks: Constant Nothing, Call Out, Constant Headache, 21st Dead Rats, Derailed, Ashtray Petting Zoo, Orange Julius
RIYL: Jawbreaker, Descendants, Screeching Weasel