Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Big Scary Monsters
07 May 2012
by Alex Andrews
There is a reason why debut albums are often held with such affection. They arrive without pressure, without expectation and in the best cases, without unnecessary amounts of polish. Such an example was Joyce Manor’s eponymous album. Not since Against Me! had a young band sounded so fresh or so tunefully intense, and as parallels exist between the early trajectories of both bands, it’s with good reason that the promise of a follow-up has caused waves of excitement to ripple throughout the underground.
It was a little concerning, then, to hear the band’s singer and guitarist Barry Johnson prophesise to Alternative Press about the new album being met with the same reception as Weezer’s Pinkerton or Jawbreaker’s Dear You – “where nobody fucking likes it but then four or five years later, they come around to it” – before anybody had even had the chance to hear it. With an ability to turn a phrase that’s as emotive as it is wickedly funny, Johnon is not only the band’s mouthpiece but its focal point. On their debut, we found him vomiting over his jeans and fantasising about orchestrating mass murder whilst playing with a model train set. This time around, he’s pondering on why he feels so angry, and so tired, and though his melodic grasp may well be stronger, his punch lines are lacking.
At their most confident, Joyce Manor mine the kind of vintage skate-punk they clearly grew up on. Reference points are early-Alkaline Trio (who incidentally released their first two albums through Asian Man Records, the same label that has put out Of All Things… stateside) and the now defunct Osker, whose snotty late-90s melodies have been preserved for future generations on Punk-O-Rama compilations. A good half of the album, however, is made up of curveballs which deviate considerably. There’s a 50-second track which could have been recorded on a dictaphone (‘I’m Always Tired’) and a questionable attempt at a reggae groove (‘See How Tame I Can Be’). More fortunate is the tender ‘Drainage’, where Johnston is accompanied only by a piano and acoustic guitar, and ‘Bride of Usher’, which features a bass line that sounds like The Cure’s ‘Close To Me’ and jangly guitars that mimic The Smiths (later, on ‘Violent Inside’, Johnston sings a hook that sounds suspiciously like one of Morrissey’s).
The problem with Off All Things… though, is that what could have been the breakthrough album for an exciting, young band, has ended up feeling like a stop-gap record. What could have been a killer 7″ has been packaged up as an album by way of a number of half-baked ideas that don’t really go anywhere. There are some great songs here, but by clocking in at a meagre 13 minutes, there simply aren’t enough of them. This is a decent record nonetheless, but you can’t help but wish they’d taken the time to write something more substantial. Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired barely scrapes the surface of the band’s capabilities.
Sounds Like: Cheap Girls, Osker, Alkaline Trio
Standout Tracks: Video Killed The Radio Star (yes, they cover it), Violent Inside, Comfortable Clothes