In 2014, Joyce Manor released “Never Hungover Again,” a ten-song burst of pop-punk that served as a big leap for a band with roots in emo and punk. Now with 2016’s “Cody,” the band isn’t turning back. After creating an instant classic like “Hungover,” Joyce Manor could have easily overindulged and created a big budget studio mess. “Cody,” however, is a straightforward, tightly-wound rock record that revels in post-adolescent soul searching.
On its last album, Joyce Manor concocted a 19-minute masterpiece. “Hungover” is intensely melodic. It’s an album that’s meant to be played over and over again. “Cody” takes all of the melody and gives it a more mature feel. The songs are longer and more varied, as well as having more of an indie rock influence. In its new direction, the band shifts away from pop-punk and grows up, a decision certain to annoy some of its hardcore fans.
Like “Hungover,” “Cody” demands multiple listens. It starts with silliness in the opener “Fake I.D.” The fun single has a reference to Kanye West in the first few lines. By the song’s end, however, frontman Barry Johnson references the death of a close friend. The band launches the listener into silliness then swings around and hits them with sadness. This cycle ebbs and flows throughout the entire album.
On “Eighteen,” Johnson sings, “At eighteen, life’s a sad dream, then you wake up, things are different for you.” Johnson’s lyrics reflect the pain of adolescence and the uncertainty of transitioning into adulthood. He’s nostalgic for his younger days, but he knows he never really can go back. Throughout “Cody,” Johnson realizes the trap of nostalgia and wrestles with actually moving forward.
On the song “Stairs,” Johnson delivers the line, “Yeah, I’m twenty-six and I still live with my parents. Oh, I can’t do laundry, Christ, I can’t do dishes.” This track, one of the band’s longest ever, gives the listener the best sense of the themes of the album. Later in the song, Johnson sings selfishly about a lover, “And I wish that I could hide you, Some place no one could hurt you, Where nobody could change you.” He seems to be pleading for his love to remain untainted by the world, by adults.
However, Johnson knows that once you take a bite of the apple, there’s no going back. No matter how much a person wants to extend their adolescence, it always proves impossible. The past is confined only to memory.
The wonderfully melodic single “Last You Heard of Me” swells with expressive guitars, reminding us of the band’s pop-punk mastery. The song is nearly perfect: it gets in, does its job and gets out with haste. Tinges of bands like Jawbreaker, Guided By Voices and Summer Vacation all come through on “Cody,” but with this album Joyce Manor has solidified itself as its own thing. The band isn’t pop-punk or punk or emo. With “Cody,” Joyce Manor has created its own world of honest rock.
Growing up is hard, but Joyce Manor might just get you through it.