If there’s one band that can say a whole lot in very little, it’s Joyce Manor. Their last album, 2014’s excellent Never Hungover Again, is enough to attest for that, managing to cram ten fully-fledged tracks into only nineteen minutes, unbelievably their longest effort up to now. That’s because new effort Cody manages to leapfrog its predecessor in terms of length, this time stretching out to a prog-tastic twenty-four minutes. In all seriousness though, it only makes sense that Joyce Manor are reaching out to something a bit more conventional (and even using that as a descriptor is pushing it) – Cody feels like the product of a band exploring the products of age and the uncertainties that come with it, while still sticking to their rootsy indie-punk-grunge melting pot, albeit delivered in a more sonically measured fashion. And still, it absolutely rips.
There are two main factors for this – its intention and its execution. Cody presents itself as an album made by ’90s kids for ’90s kids, one that packs in the Millennial zeigeist wrapped in a package raised on Nirvana and the first golden age of pop-punk. But impressively, Joyce Manor’s view of the modern day from such a perspective remains peripheral rather than automatically glamorising. So while opener Fake I.D. projects a disdain for younger generations for being flighty and trivialising, Last You Heard Of Me sees the narrator feeling jaded and uncool around that exact same group, while Stairs sees him despairing at being an adult still living with his parents and lacking any basic skills to take care of himself. Coupled with Barry Johnson’s slacker vocal delivery, Cody is a much more fleshed-out view of the modern world from the eyes of a ’90s kid than any BuzzFeed article could possibly manage, as well as being an infinitely more enjoyable experience.
But for as well as this album is framed, what pushes it above mere prostrate Gen-Y pissiness to the great album that it is, is the music itself. For all intents and purposes, Cody is more of a pop album than anything else – snappy, ludicrously catchy and with an ear for a killer hook that could see them fill the niche of ‘token alternative act’ on mainstream radio (the fact that fun. frontman Nate Reuss provides backing vocals on Angel In The Snow speaks volumes in this regard). But Cody is a pop album in the same way that Weezer’s output is, and it’s framed in pretty much the exact same way. As questionable as some of Rivers Cuomo’s lyrics can be, he has a hangdog earnestness that softens the blow of what could be easily misconstrued by any other vocalist, and Johnson’s work to the same effect. So for as confessional and deep as tracks like Eighteen and This Song Is A Mess And So Am I are, they’re wrapped in melodies so joyous and brimming with such an affable exuberance that it’s entirely digestible on impact, even if the underlying themes of the lyrics may take a bit more dissection. That’s hardly a problem though, considering that there’s so much about Cody to like that repeat listens are no hardship whatsoever.
Because make no mistake, even outside the realms of punk, Cody is one of the most immediately satisfying albums to be released in 2016. It’s equal parts profound and bracing, compressing everything wonderful about punk, pop and indie into the most concise of packages and running far with it. And even though this album will inevitably fly under the radar in favour of the current flavour of the week (which really is a crying shame), Cody is without a doubt Joyce Manor’s crowning achievement, taking everything brilliant about them and cranking the infectiousness to the nth degree. Seriously, don’t sleep on this.
For fans of: Modern Baseball, Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Cody’ by Joyce Manor is out now on Epitaph Records.