Knuckle Puck

Copacetic

Written by: TL on 18/08/2015 15:56:48

For anyone looking to get an impression of the state of pop-punk in 2015, a good place to start would be with Chicago's Knuckle Puck. For the past couple of years, the scene has seemed to orbit more and more around the influences of The Wonder Years and The Story So Far, and on Knuckle Puck's recently released debut full-length "Copacetic", the band steps forward as one of the main contenders particularly in the latter's camp. High-intensity, melodic rock is the order of the day, as the record's songs speed ahead while singer Joe Taylor belts forth each line with strained half-shouted notes, while always retaining a sense of melody in there. It's the kind of thing where you can imagine seeing the band live in some smaller venue, with Taylor pointing meaningfully down into the crowd to emphasise each and every line, his eyes peeled wide open while he paces the stage frantically. Meanwhile, the band is mostly churning away in that sort of "Third Eye Blind on jet fuel" kind of style that both Knuckle Puck and several of their peers have gravitated towards for some time. As mentioned above, it's pop-punk 2015 to the letter, complete with relatively effective response vocals lending Taylor some help at any given opportunity.

However, if there was some hope for Knuckle Puck to do something of novelty with this style, "Copacetic" regrettably does not really deliver. Of course, pop-punk fans worldwide have shown themselves willing to ignore it, but the record suffers of the same "almost constantly intense" syndrome as The Story So Far often do, as if the songs go straight from ignition to fifth gear, with little contrast or flow to draw the listener's attention to the otherwise so passionately shouted lyrics. It is not really that the band does not instrumentally make room for dynamics, it's more that Taylor's near-constantly forced style sort of blurs out the sense of ebb and flow of energy that you would probably otherwise notice more.

The best examples of things going relatively well in spite of this appear in "Disdain" at track two and "True Contrite" at track seven. "Disdain" has a properly mellow verse to set up its more powerful parts, a pretty cool rhythm to the vocals in the chorus and a bridge that helps lift up the lines "And if you let me stay I'll keep out of the way, I'll be the empty canvas if you be the paint". Similarly, "True Contrite" emphasises the more mid-paced tempo that bands like Transit have used to great effect, establishing enough space for one to pay a bit more attention to the song as opposed to it just rushing by as just a generic pop-punk blur.

As the final track "Untitled" rings out with an extended, twinkly instrumental passage, it feels like a nod towards Jimmy Eat World's classic "Goodbye Sky Harbour", but by setting themselves up for comparison to JEW, it only becomes even more clear how much Knuckle Puck lack the dynamic songwriting talents of that band, or even of a band like The Wonder Years, who are closer to them stylistically, yet have distanced themselves from their peers by making songs that consistently get the listener interested from start to finish. Overall then, the verdict is that if you're a big fan of modern pop-punk and want more, "Copacetic" can still be a good listen for you, but considering how the band sings with an attitude that suggests how fed up they are with things around them being mediocre, the overall impression of their first album is somewhat ironic.

Download: True Contrite, Disdain
For The Fans Of: The Story So Far, Transit, Forever Came Calling
Listen: facebook.com/KnucklePuckIL

Release date 29.07.2015
Rise Records

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