New Music: Joyce Manor “Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired”

2012 Asian Man Records

Recently, I posted this article in which I was not shy about my opinions toward modern music and its current state of affairs. I wrote it very quickly and posted it right away so I wouldn’t have time to think too much about it. I guess it is good news, then, that even as I read it now, there isn’t a whole lot I would change. Much of it consists of thoughts and feelings I have been having about the industry for years. For a while, I was worried that posting this stuff may give some people the wrong idea about me. Maybe it has – I do sound pretty bitter.

Soon after I posted this article, I saw a random Facebook post from Wake Mitchell, a musician and DJ well known to the Lawrence, KS scene. He periodically posts songs that he finds great and inspiring, along with these motivational messages of sorts. I see one almost every day, but this quote hit me just the right way right after I posted my article/rant. It seemed too perfect.

“Those who choose to work hard and strive for internal excellence inevitably experience stints of overwhelming pain and uncertainty. If you’ve ever felt such before, you’re on a beautiful path, for you are alive and conscious of all around (and within) you!”

After I read this, I felt better. I left work and began my commute back to Lawrence. It was Friday and it just felt awesome that the weekend was finally here, and whenever I feel like that, there’s nothing like some good, loud music for the drive home. I threw on a record that I’ve been listening to somewhat obsessively lately, a 9-song, 13-minute punk album called Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired by Torrance, CA’s Joyce Manor.

When I first listened to this album, I immediately noticed two things about Joyce Manor. First of all, they do some pop-punk things that I would usually find annoying or even unbearable coming from most bands, like the whiny/scream vocals, for example. Secondly, and contrary to my first observation, they somehow sounded like a band that knew their stuff, like the members had been playing in other bands for a long time. One of the first clues to this was the fact that they are a DIY punk band, but the recording sounds wonderful – not immaculate, but crisp, heavy and well-executed. This is not something you normally see from a DIY band full of new aspiring rockers. Also, these extremely short songs are quite complex, and the band has a knack for cramming in lots of ideas without making them boil over with busy bullshit.

Opening track “These Kind of Ice Skates” sets this tone perfectly. In almost under a minute, we get a verse, pre-chorus, chorus, a bridge, and then it’s over. (I guess if you don’t repeat a part, you can’t really call it a chorus, but that’s just how I break it down.) The next track “Comfortable Clothes” continues in that same vein, only more frenetic, catchier, and even shorter. Then, all of a sudden, the band switches gears to “See How Tame I Can Be”, a sort of lo-fi electro-dance tune with low and bubbly synths peppered with out-of-tune guitars. The album’s title comes from the lyrics of this song, and it totally makes sense. At this point, it starts to feel like one of those intimate live shows with a small crowd in which the band just starts to fuck around and have fun – they kick it off with two songs that represent the Joyce Manor people know and love, and follow them up with “Tame” and “Drainage”, a minute-long home-recorded acoustic track that is unlike anything else the band has done.

When their cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star” came on during my aforementioned drive home, it made me think of the article I had written, and it dawned on me that this cover was basically Joyce Manor’s version of that article. In looking past the specific words of the title into the greater meaning of the song, Joyce Manor have re-activated the tune as an anthem for people (mainly musicians) striving to deal with the changing times. Just like the radio stars or silent movie stars of the old days had to adjust their lives and personal expectations with the growth of technology, so we are still doing today, albeit at a much more incendiary pace. (They could have called it “Internet Killed the Video Star”, but that just would have been cheesy.) The best part of the cover, though, is that it holds up to the original incredibly well, while still sounding like a Joyce Manor song. The band re-appropriates it to their sound and personality so well I didn’t even notice it was a cover until the chorus popped up.

Of course, the remainder of the album flies by in a blink, but that doesn’t make it any less great. “If I Needed You There” is probably the most cookie-cutter pop-punk tune of the bunch, but still manages to get in some original and unexpected hooks, like the surprisingly poppy keyboard parts in the chorus. “Bride of Usher” cops a bass line from the Cure’s “Close to Me” and turns it into a dance-punk rave up, and “Violent World” has all the proper ingredients of a bona fide punk anthem compressed into a minute and a half. “I’m Always Tired”, a 45-second acoustic demo which sounds like it was recorded on boom box, closes the album with an unexpected lo-fi jolt. The whole thing is over so fast it feels unfinished, but the positive here is that the songs are so good, you’ll find it difficult to not just start the record over again and give it another spin. Even after playing this whole record twice, you’ve still taken less time out of your life than you would listening to a New Found Glory or Blink-182 album, and for too many reasons to count, Joyce Manor is infinitely more interesting. ***1/2

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