The latest (and greatest) album from the revered Californian punk trio is our pick of the week's best new releases
Pop punk has always and will always be sneered at. Not punk enough for punks, not pop enough for the pop kids, it’s long been seen as a bridge between two places that never asked for a bridge. There’s some truth in all that but only when applied to bad pop punk. And there’s definitely more than enough of that around.
Like any hybrid, great pop punk is a balancing act that is way harder than it looks. Joyce Manor almost make it look too easy. The Torrance, CA trio have always put equal emphasis on the punk and the pop, resulting in songs that hit hard but stay in your head for years, like ‘Victoria’ off Never Hungover Again or ‘Fake I.D.’, Cody’s almost ridiculously catchy opener.
Cody marked the point where the band added a little more nuance to their frantically poppy hardcore punk. With 2018’s Million Dollars To Kill Me they blossomed into a juggernaut made entirely out of hooks, a smoothie whipped together out of pop punk, emo, indie rock and classic power pop.
The last four years have seen a remastered version of the band’s debut but no new music, making 40 oz. To Fresno easily the most anticipated record of their 14 years together. Unprecedented attention clearly suits the trio (bolstered on drums by Motion City Soundtrack’s Tony Thaxton) as this is their finest to date. Heavier than Million Dollars but every bit as catchy, it feels like the band’s mission statement brought to life.
40 oz. To Fresno wallops the door in with an explosive cover of OMD’s ‘Souvenir’. That a song by such a wildly different band ends up sounding entirely like a Joyce Manor song is testament to their pop hearts. Take ‘Reason To Believe’ down a couple of notches and it could be Big Star or one of their 90s devotees, with its chiming guitars and Barry Johnson’s shining vocal melody.
Joyce Manor still go for the jugular when they need to, like on ‘Don’t Try’ which leaps from mathy verses to a holler-along chorus and a chugging breakdown and then done, all in less than two minutes. ‘Gotta Let It Go’ has all the anthemic angst of peak Jimmy Eat World but with a hardcore edge gleamed from Johnson’s shredded growl.
It’s all done and dusted in less than 20 minutes, a short sharp blast that makes Guided By Voices sound epic. But when you don’t make a single misstep in 17 minutes of solid hooks, running time doesn’t matter a jot. Joyce Manor have made a record designed to be played loud and sung louder on road trips with the people who mean the most to you. The bonus is that even the shortest road trip will offer the opportunity for multiple listens.