Knuckle Puck

Knuckle Puck - Copacetic

Man, what a tall order it must be to create a pop-punk record in 2015. In a genre that went from maligned to mall playlist and back, it’s not surprising that bands are a little bit flummoxed as to what works and what should be left in a 9th grade trapper keeper. Knuckle Puck, perhaps more than any of their peers, toe this line delicately. While the music has grown up, offering instrumental denouements and actually interesting slow numbers, the lyrics are still firmly entrenched in the world of paralysis through heartbreak.

And the thing I realize after writing reviews like this for so long, is the reason this music exist is because there is a need for it. Romantic comedies exist because there is a need for it. People look for culture to echo their thoughts. We all need help. We all need a friendly ear. And pop-punk provides that. It’s a musical manifestation of our lowest moments, except it’s set to the sound of our highest highs. So when Joe Taylor sings on “Disdain” a line like, “The questions linger but I’m too scared to speak out / Like what could you possibly see in a failure like me?,” we don’t get sad but invigorated. This music is so action-packed because it’s made for those of us who have trouble taking a stand for ourselves. 

What I’m saying is this is useful stuff. It’s steeped in anger and doused in sadness, but still an outlet. It’s still music that turns our grief into something tangible. And Copacetic does an admirable job recreating the peaks and valleys of sorrow. Songs like opener “Wall To Wall (Depreciation)”, “Poison Pen Letter” and “Stationary” are loud, forceful and take charge. They are catharsis incarnate. But Knuckle Puck also channel those moments of reflection, where we aren’t sure who’s right and who should be more sorry, into slow numbers that pack actual oomph. “Ponder” and standout “True Contrite,” with its slow fade, force us to think on our own sins. No breakup is a one-way street, regardless of how much we want it to be. 

But it’s the closer “Untitled” that wraps it all up in a way that covers the gamut of emotion. “Silhouettes on the ceiling / I’ve been much better but at least I’m healing / You know I haven’t slept since you left but at least that’s progress,” is how we begin. And the loneliness just continues, with Joe Taylor making it clear that his feigned outward happiness is killing him inside. It’s the sort of thing social media has forced on us – we are either extremely happy or the saddest we’ve ever been, there’s no room for the in-between. So as we hear his yelps of “I’m fine / I’m fine,” we know that’s anything but the truth. And we know that this is a band who has taken the gimmick out of being sad and made it hauntingly realistic. But the smartest thing they do is also the riskiest – letting us think on our choices for nearly 4 minutes of acoustic guitar and ambient tone. How are we really doing? What did it really mean? Where will we go from here? Pop-punk has always been a genre that dwells on the past, but a closer like “Untitled” and an album like Copacetic are just as interested in an uncertain future. And even if the way forward is less than clear, it’s still a step in the right direction.

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