Album Review: Joyce Manor – “Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired”

By its very nature, pop punk is seldom described as inaccessible. But there I was, listening to Of All Things I Will Grow Tired, watching everything I thought I knew about genre strictures bursting into hellish flames. Seeking comfort, I went back to Joyce Manor’s self-titled, embracing its easy melodic nature. Relishing the heartfelt lyrics that seemed to be sung from my own memories and emotions. I didn’t want to be challenged, I wanted to hear “Constant Headache” again.

But with the knowledge that I’d eventually have to write about what I wrote off so quickly as a failure, I resolutely replayed the album. It sounded better this time, but it wasn’t until I re-listened to their cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star,” that I realized what I had in my hands.

Genius. I had genius, but beyond genius I had something even more important: Art. You see, I could never really consider a cover an art form. It’s tribute. Nostalgic mimicry. But this wasn’t like that. Joyce Manor did more than cover it, they changed it with such bold decisions that it’s hard to believe they were anything but premeditated. The obvious punk rock attack was there, it’s sped up and fuzzy with distortion; practically unrecognizable already. But the changes to the structure make it special.

You don’t cut the biggest hook out of a pop song. But Joyce Manor does it with a casualness that suggests it was the only way. We like to talk about songs being stripped down in punk rock, but this is all together different. What is a pop song without its hook? It’s practically synonymous with the form, excising something so fundamental is a bold choice. The memorable refrain of the song’s title lyric is thrown out in favor of a shortened chorus with a modified melody. Whether the reason was necessity, economy, or artistic sensibility; the choice is thrilling, not to mention thought provoking.

The more I thought about “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the more I liked what Joyce Manor was doing this time around. The constant defying of expectations is refreshing. As much as I love being catered to as an audience member, I prefer the erratic and sometimes difficult sensibilities of another human being expressing himself. The closest thing we have to a big anthem is “Violent Inside,” which is probably the most accessible song on the album. It’s a great track but it also kind of defines Joyce Manor’s style on Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired. It’s a linear song that constantly moves forward, valiantly staving off repetition. The chorus is sung once, displaying a certain confidence in its strength that is difficult to deny after having heard it.

Most interesting though, is that with only nine songs Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired feels complete. It’s only thirteen minutes long, but within that thirteen minutes a good deal happens. And being familiar with Joyce Manor’s aesthetic, any more would have been too much. They’re not afraid to release an incredibly short album, and if they didn’t like something, they would’ve cut it. This fearless editing presents the album in a different light; one of definite authorship. This is a Joyce Manor album, and nothing else.

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