While in many ways we live in a cult of celebrity, it’s quite rare for an artist to fully transcend their own craft, reach out, and touch the lives of others. It’s even rarer for someone to hit the poles of love and hate as much as Kanye West. For over a dozen years, the hip hop artist and producer has been beloved by many for his beats, rhymes and oversized personality, but berated by countless others for his cocksure attitude. And no matter your opinion on the hip-hop royal, you know hearing about his latest album, escapade or online beef is pretty much inescapable. Take, for instance, this review for Torrance, CA quartet Joyce Manor’s latest album, Cody.
On the surface, the band’s scrappy-but-sappy indie rock seems a long way’s off from the modern day gospel of Ye’s The Life of Pablo, but the rapper figures big in Cody opener “Fake I.D.” Framed with a Buzzfeed-style “you won’t believe what happens next”, it begins with a woman undressing in front of the narrator (“Don’t be fooled. The first two hours ruled”) before jumping into a convo about Kanye. It’s a little odd, but seems to be a disappointed poke at how different two people’s tastes can be. Perhaps the Kanye nod is the outlier for the sadness of it all, as following some melancholy pop-rock riff work, the story shifts from the topic of art icons to that of a broken heart over the death of a friend.
Joyce Manor’s latest traffics in plenty of awkward emotions. Coming off the breakthrough success of 2014’s Never Hungover Again, it’s a massive sounding record, full of bright bursting guitar chords and concussion-inducing drum sounds. This is thanks to the fact that the band spent a couple of months working on the record in a studio with producer Rob Schnapf (Elliot Smith, Beck) as opposed to their previous, relative rush-jobs. On a lyrical scene, the band are still a bit heart-wrecked and wilted.
“Eighteen” crushes with its overdriven, in-the-red arrangement, but is also overcome with a sapphire glaze of coming-of-age confusion. “Stairs” pushes the focus a few years in the future. A chunky sad-sack piece, it drifts from guitarist/vocalist Barry Johnson laying out lines about living with your parents deep into your ’20s towards a dark finale that treads a protector/captor scenario.
Along with the murky content, Cody likewise sinks into a slower groove than some of Joyce Manor’s peppier pop-punk pieces. It works best on “Last You Heard of Me,” a slow pogo piece that recalls ’90s-era Weezer b-sides while discussing a bad night at a Karaoke bar. Elsewhere, the distorted, slacker swing of “Make Me Dumb” drags, and even the 90-second, screamed-and-sung “Reversing Machine” has a bit of bloat to it.
Closer “This Song is A Mess” bumps up the bpms for a jittery and dispirited finale, a meta work that has Johnson noting his reasons for writing the song itself. It’s a bit on the nose, but then again, the fully revealed chorus of “this song is a mess but so am I” may well be a sly reference to the early ’00s noise project of the same name. No word on how the woman from “Fake I.D.” feels about that band in, but odds are she likes Kanye better.
– review by Gregory Adams