Review: Joyce Manor — Million Dollars to Kill Me

Category:  The Arts
Thursday, September 27th, 2018 at 5:03 PM
Review: Joyce Manor — Million Dollars to Kill Me by Livia Homerski

★★★

Joyce Manor have been a staple in the pop-punk community since the early 2010s, gaining popularity with their debut S/T. After signing with Epitaph records and releasing “Never Hungover Again,” Joyce Manor’s production has been bumped up and their calamitous, rattling guitars and drums have been smoothed out. The band has also incorporated a lot more acoustic guitar in their albums and have inexplicably softened up after 10 years.

The album ironically starts off lacking the thrashing energy they’re known for. “Fighting Kangaroo” has a mellow tempo and a hopping beat, yet lacks the spirit of a true Kangaroo Jack. This song just doesn’t make me want to fight someone, and the mopey lyrics about an ex-girlfriend play a part in that.

“Big Lie” is where the album picks up for a few minutes. The infectious vocal melody sticks to the soft bass and a lead guitar riff that dances around the root chords of the song. Sleigh bells accent the chorus as guitarist/vocalist Barry Johnson picks up the energy and begins to yell more than sing, recalling a rowdier time. The end of the song adjusts the tone into something softer with the flip into falsetto during “until we’re washed away child.”

The eponymous track, “Million Dollars To Kill Me” is reminiscent of older Joyce Manor with a song progression eerily similar to “Call Out” from their S/T, but without the attitude. However, the cleaner vocals are a little more refined and involved on this track, and Johnson even throws a nice run on one of the verses.

Despite lacking the energy that usually makes me want to fight someone to their music, some of the softer tracks are the ones that bop the hardest, and “Silly Games” is no exception. From the 50’s pop inspired percussion to the soft piano and xylophone, the music is embodied by its simplistic lyrics. The verses are repeated twice and offer a series of statements about casual cruelty: “People on the street intimidate you, though they see you cryin’, they all smile. Days go by but nothin’ ever changes, was it ever worth it all the while?” 

“Wildflowers” starts off promising enough with an lively riff, but slows down as it reveals yet another 50’s doo-wap inspired song. The guitar riff that plays alongside the same vocal melody feels lazy; that could’ve been an opportunity to push their songwriting and make the song feel fuller by layering another simple riff over the watery and higher pitched guitar part. Nonetheless, the sweetness of this track suits the influences and the guitar solo later on makes up slightly for the lost time earlier on.

Although I don’t find myself listening to pop punk as much as I used to, I still consider their S/T and “Never Hungover Again,” as perfect 5’s. Even “Cody” was solid, but the passion is just not there enough on this album. The garage-punk tones of their previous releases have been long replaced with doo-wap inspired pop-punk hooks and clean vocals on “Million Dollars to Kill Me.” The softness works sometimes, but overall, I feel like Joyce Manor needs to get in touch with their inner punk selves.

Livia Homerski can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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