Never Hungover Again Album Review
Released July 22, 2014
Genre: Emo, Indie Rock, Jangle Pop, Punk Rock
Torrance, California’s summer crushes Joyce Manor know how to deliver the good-feels. While maintaining an emotionally punk-ish vibe, Joyce injects saccharine melodies and vocal lines into their tunes. However, on Never Hungover Again, the sweetness is best described as such: sometimes you’re eating a baked Alaska, but other times you’re excessively munching on some old Juju Fruits. While half of the album I loved, the other half was too sweet and lacked substance.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a hyper-sweet musical experience. In fact, if you wanted that going into this record, exit this article and buy this album. If your musical sweet tooth is insatiable, waste no time getting around to listening to this record. However, if you want balance between sweetness and musicianship, then Joyce Manor will deliver only half of the time on this new record. The opening track, “Christmas Card,” vocalist Barry Johnson delivers a repetitive and irritating melody that starts to grate on the ears, especially since the rhyming scheme changes very little in this two-minute quickie. This is the case with every single track I don’t like on Never Hungover Again: the sweetness drowns out everything else going on. I can’t tell what emotion I’m supposed to feel, a problem especially apparent on the track “Victoria.” Lyrically, I have no idea what to feel. First, the lyrics depict love (I think? I suck at reading comprehension), then they jump to misadventures on the beach. I’m probably too dense to decipher the true meaning behind this song, but the sugary-sweet pop-punk song structure doesn’t do it for me. I feel like the ideas could be more fleshed out on this song especially.
What I think bothered me most about the tracks I don’t like are that they are formulaic for this band. These tracks are huge side steps in terms of the band’s progression musically. I know what to expect, and when there are no surprises in an under two-minute song, it’s like a two-minute Twilight movie (see below), minus the attractive cast: All Style, No Substance.
Now, this is where I pull a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde: the tracks I like on this album are amazing. Some of my favorites in this band’s catalog are on here, for sure. “Falling In Love Again” is still sweeter than the cherry-on-top, but I get it…that’s what falling in love is. It’s exactly like that Steve Carrell movie that came out a few years ago, Crazy, Stupid Love (a movie I liked A LOT more than I thought I would). It’s a boisterous, chaotic and cheesy; the band knows this and even goes so far as to through some vintage-sounding keys into the mix. The keys will be a dividing factor amongst listeners for this track, but I personally think that making the song even more melodramatic makes it make sense. Love is sometimes as over-embellished as it is in soap operas.
My favorite track on the album, “Schley,” may not be a love song, as the lyrics are somewhat cryptic, but I feel like another love metaphor is necessary to describe my feelings about this song. It’s still sweet, but the sweetness is more subtle in the beginning, easing the listener into the candied concoction that is this track. After the intro, the jangly guitars that usually are a detractor for this album creep in, representing the next level of sweetness in the song. Then, (get ready for the love conceit) the main riff comes in. This is easily the “cutest” riff I’ve heard all year, and I mean that in a good way. This riff is like your first crush in middle school: no matter what they do, you find something attractive about them. Every note in this riff is comforting and pleasing, and I know I’m rambling like a hopeless romantic, but I think listeners will at least see where I’m coming from if they check out the track.
“In The Army Now” has a cool 90s post-punk vibe that drives the song into your ears, while “Catalina Fight Song” is energetic and fun just like vintage Joyce Manor. Ultimately, whether you like this album or not depends on how sweet your want your music to be. For me, I loved half of the candy, and couldn’t even put the other half between my teeth.
FAV TRACKS: Falling In Love Again, Schley, In The Army Now, Catalina Fight Song, Heated Swimming Pool
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Christmas Card, End Of The Summer, Victoria, Heart Tattoo, The Jerk