ALBUM REVIEW: Joyce Manor, 40 oz. to Fresno
Joyce Manor's latest 40 oz. to Fresno, pays homage to the band's youthful style. There is something eternally young about the loud and nasally vocals of frontman Barry Johnson, especially when coupled with his nostalgic lyrics. The band starts the first song, "Souvenir," with an energetic guitar riff, setting the tone for the "fast and hard" feeling of the album. The nine-song album is an extremely quick listen. All the songs are under two minutes except for two, the opening song “Souvenir” at 3:06 and the second to last song “Dance With Me” at 2:28. The total listening time barely clears 15 minutes. While this may seem short, pop-punk can be a very potent style that is easy to get tired of if you are not a fan of the group.
Originally from the LA suburb of Torrance, California, Joyce Manor has cultivated a strong local following in the ‘90s-’00s Southern California beach punk scene. Their last album, released in 2020, Songs From Northern Torrance, was a similarly short listen with a total of only ten songs, two of which were under one minute. The pop-punk group seems to follow a distinct formula, employing repetitive but catchy choruses. While Joyce Manor may have waned slightly in popularity as they've aged, they still have a dedicated audience. The song "You're Not Famous Anymore" on the new album seems to dig at other artists who may not have maintained the same level of success.
Pop-punk is a notoriously tortured and dramatic genre, famously enjoyed by teenagers, especially in the ‘90s. Their most-streamed song on Spotify, "Constant Headache," is off their nearly a decade-old album S/T. At over thirty-two million plays, this song is featured on a variety of "new-punk, new-alternative, and pop-punk playlists on Spotify, which is how I discovered the band. Frontman Barry Johnson vaguely resembles Benedict Cumberbatch if he was alt and covered in tattoos. He has a classic, slightly off-pitch midwest emo voice that seems more fitting for an early twenties male manipulator who doesn't know how to regulate his emotions. In a 2020 interview, he quipped, "I'm 33; in pop-punk, I'm aged out by a decade." Joyce Manor has not grown out of their angsty lyrics despite this self-awareness. In the chorus of "Don't Try," Johnson yells, "Sometimes I feel so far away/I missed you so much today." Similarly, "Did you ever know" details nights of "Drinking tall cats in the park, hanging out till it gets dark," indicating he still has yet to outgrow some of his teenage habits.
Some of the songs on the new album are repetitive, and there are only a few of them that stand out to me. Granted, I am not a die-hard Joyce Manor enthusiast, but I enjoy some of their songs in moderation. "Don't Try," which dropped as a single, is one of them, as well as "Gotta Let It Go." Both feature incredibly catchy choruses. Though I am a fan of their midwest-emo-style vocals, it can get old after listening to the same strained vocal inflections over and over. The group has not changed their style much through the years, but they don't necessarily have to. With over 450,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, Joyce Manor has a firm standing amongst other pop-punk legends. The band joined The Story So Far on a spring tour earlier this April along with Mom Jeans and Microwave, all pop-punk bands that peaked in popularity in the mid-’00s but still maintained loyal fan bases. I've spoken with longstanding fans who appreciate Johnson and the rest of the band's familiarly energetic approach to the album. For mid-level fans like me, the album conveys the band's style but blends in with the rest of their discography and only features two songs that I would return to listen to again.