The first rule of listening to Joyce Manor is not turning Joyce Manor into a quote unquote big deal. In a culture that’s always so eager to deem something the “next big thing,” it’s only natural that bloggers and journalists alike have turned their ears and eyes towards the Torrance, CA quartet. But here’s a new flash – Joyce Manor only wants to play super-catchy punk in super-efficient bursts of auditory ecstasy. The band isn’t here to defend pop-punk, revive emo, or save rock and roll – rather Joyce Manor just wants to have a good time, play some solid tunes, and maybe have an adult beverage or five afterwards.
Joyce Manor’s third full-length album (and Epitaph Records debut), the aptly-titled Never Hungover Again, accomplishes just that. The band has continued to expand and refine their frenetic bursts of pop-punk into something more substantial and LP3 chronicles the growth in songwriting while maintaining the spastic charm of the band’s earlier releases. Tracks like the playfully hectic “Heart Tattoo” (Matt Ebert’s bass line is the track’s life source) and the brisk “Victoria” are shining beacons of this, while the angsty, early Alkaline Trio-vibe of “In The Army Now” will please fans of band’s self-titled debut. But first single (if you’d even call it that) “Catalina Fight Song” exemplifies everything you love about Joyce Manor. Barely eclipsing a minute, “Catalina” avoids the build-up of normal song structures and drops the listener smack-dab into a fist-pumping, unruly crescendo. It’s all uppers without any of the side effects.
Despite only clocking in at 19 minutes, Never Hungover Again still finds a variety of ways to incorporate different tempos and techniques throughout. “Christmas Card” opens the album as a stomping, Weezer-esque three-chord mid-tempo jam that showcases vocalist Barry Johnson’s mixture of laid-back vocals and wistful lyricism. His delivery sometimes betrays the pain behind the words, such as on tracks like the intricately woven “Schley” (Johnson and Chase Knobbe’s guitar work throughout is top-notch) and somber closer “Heated Swimming Pool”.
If The Smiths had written an album that focused on the banality of life, it’d probably sound a lot like Never Hungover Again, as “End Of The Summer” and “Falling In Love Again” exhibits Johnson’s unique observations in familiar, relatable situations, with the latter serving up some of Joyce Manor’s most noticeable strides in songwriting. Layered with caustic riffs and synth-programmed strings, “Falling In Love Again” is Hungover’s clear highlight as Johnson captures the highs and lows of a new (or fleeting) romance. Regardless of the album’s length, Never Hungover Again is still incredibly character-driven, something Johnson never loses sight of.
Joyce Manor seems like it’s in direct conflict with the title Never Hungover Again, as listeners may drink themselves into oblivion while listening to the quartet’s near-perfect third album to dull the pain of suburban mundanity. Or maybe the point of the title is that the music pouring out of your floor speakers will make the following morning’s migraine seem insignificant. No matter the case, Never Hungover Again is an album meant to be played loud, fast, and constantly. Save the buzzwords for another time and have another drink instead.