ALBUM REVIEW: Joyce Manor – Cody
Upon first listen, Cody has the feel of a grower. Fake I.D is a strong choice of album opener – it has that instantly recognisable indie guitar hook and employs frontman Barry Johnson’s impassioned, wailing vocals to ease any familiar listener into the record.
Fake I.D. cements the tone of Cody as darkly adolescent. We’re hit with the bored, mocking chorus: “what do you think of Kanye West? I think that he’s great, I think he’s the best” and casual references to teenage death “’cause my friend Brandon died/and I feel sad/I miss him, he was rad.”
We’re barely given much time to contemplate the statement Fake I.D. makes as an opener before we’re greeted with the guitar intro to Eighteen. This guitar is, in our opinion, some of the best on the entire record. The way in which the light opening riff drops into the heavy, louder one is so typical Joyce Manor that it instantly evokes nostalgia for their wonderful Self-Titled. In comparison, the vocals seem slightly weak. Perhaps it’s because we’re set up to expect the teenage angst that the band flaunted in their previous releases and instead are met with something a lot more delicate. It seems that the aim of Eighteen isn’t to be another emo anthem. Instead, the lyrics and vocals take a back seat: making us think that this record will be more sonically-driven than emotionally.
This sets us up to expect Cody to be very similar thematically to Never Hung Over Again; and as it turns out, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Comparing Cody and the previous full length, Johnson explains: “There was something about the way I was writing on Never Hungover that was kind of mean?” He says “A little bitter? Cody is way more tender. A lot more love songs. Softer, sweeter—even sonically.” This idea is most easily visible in Over Before It Began. We really like how much exposure Johnson’s vocals and simplistic lyrics are given. In a Joyce Manor song, it’s not uncommon for Johnson to battle to make himself heard over his other bandmates. In Over Before It Began, he is much more vulnerable, and seeing this side of his writing makes for a beautiful song.
Interestingly, Johnson attributes much of Cody to the meditation techniques (championed by The Beatles and director David Lynch) that he taught himself while Joyce Manor were recording. Songs appeared to him almost fully formed, and the challenge was to record them down before they slipped away. “I couldn’t believe how well it worked,” he says. “I’d be driving and I’d suddenly have an entire song in my head.” This explains the catchy, off the cuff nature of a lot of the songs on Cody. Make Me Dumb, for example, has all the spontaneity of a decent pop song, even if the lyrics in the chorus (which rhyme “sun, “young”, and “dumb”) are simplistic. We’ve always had the sense that Joyce Manor wrote in this quick, organic way, so it’s really interesting to hear Johnson expand on this technique.
You could say that Cody is Joyce Manor’s first record where they don’t have to prove anything. In that respect, this record has been a pleasure to listen to because it’s got that pure, unadulterated feel – like catching someone dancing alone in front of their bedroom mirror. There are some melodic elements of Eighteen, Stairs and Reversing Machine that are very much a run on from Never Hungover Again, but these new songs lack that punch – which is a shame.
Cody is without a doubt Joyce Manor’s most mature work, but that sounds like we’re calling their previous records immature, when they were the exact opposite. In fact, we loved Joyce Manor for being some of the most self-aware punk out there. The band seem to have lost that a bit, and settled into a groove which is slightly more predictable. All the same, these new songs retain the band’s signature honesty and lyrical finesse, and feels like a very much needed bridge into whatever they’re going to do next.
Standout Track: Over Before It Began
For Fans Of: Beach Slang, PUP, Hop Along
Written by: Kathryn Woods