Joyce Manor is a pop punk band. No they don’t go on the Warped Tour every year or chugg out sugary sweet guitars that’ve dominated the genre since the early 2000s, but they’re one all the same. They fall more into the latter half of the genre, usually doling 90 seconds of infectious thrash filled in with singer Barry Johnson’s gruff tales about being a 20-something. After signing to Epitaph in 2014, the band released Never Hungover Again, and while that may have been their major label debut, it’s this year’s Cody that has them more in the spotlight than ever before.
Clocking in at 26 minutes, it’s by far the longest record they’ve ever made, but that’s not saying much. NHA was their previous high at 19 minutes and their 2012 effort Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired Of was a blistering 13 minutes. Taking this into account, the main concern coming in would be can Joyce Manor fill out an album with slower time signatures and not feel like they’re overstaying their welcome? You bet they can. Rob Schnapf (Saves The Day, Fu Manchu, Tokyo Police Club) handled production duties, and guided by his hand the band crafted longer songs with the usual verse-chrous format. Granted some hardcore fans may scoff at the lengthier songs or even declare them “sell outs”, but any notion of that should be discarded as soon as the bouncy closing track “This Song Is a Mess but so Am I” is over, as the new arrangements suit them just fine.
Lyrically is where Joyce Manor compare to most pop punk bands. Johnson touches on all the main topics the genre is known for. The pains of growing up encompass “Eighteen” and Angel In The Snow,” and in the latter Nate Reuss of fun. contributes to one of the more depressing choruses on the record, but something that anyone has probably related to at one point or another. “How come nothing amazes me?” Barry asks himself. “I don’t know.” The trials and tribulations of young love are also present on Cody (shocker I know). “Over Before It Began” starts off slow before the thrash of guitars and drums catch up to Johnson’s lamenting of a failed relationship. “Last You Heard Of Me” chronicles the common one-night stand, which Johnson can only assume is going to lead to nothing as soon as the clothes come back on. “And in the moment I see everything/Start to finish, sad defeat/Shivering, lying naked next to yoy/And that’s the last you heard of me,” he groans.
At a whopping 4:02, “Stairs” is the longest song Joyce Manor have ever made by a longshot and the risk was worth taking. Morphing the two aforementioned concepts together, the song deals with the narrator incapable of letting his lover leave his side, because, as Johnson puts it, “I can’t do laundry… I can’t do dishes/What’ll I do without you?” It’s the kind of indie rock anthem that anyone living at home in their 20s can relate to, and gives them greater room to perhaps delve into longer songs in general moving forward.
At it’s very core, Cody is still a Joyce Manor record at heart; the average track length is still only 2:27. However, the band took more risks than ever before, and while some may have floundered (the acoustic “Do You Really Want To Not Get Better” comes to mind), most soared, making this album a wonderful mix of modern pop punk and ’90s grunge and indie rock. Those that weren’t sure of Joyce Manor’s place on the pop punk totem pole can now rest easy after listening to Cody; they’re most definitely at the top.