There comes a moment in the early phases of adulthood, where you realize that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The mantras that everyone’s taught you don’t hold up and are no longer relevant. That being said, some of the best music comes from depressing epiphanies. Most modern punk bands seem built on these sort of realizations.
Listen: “Reversing Machine” – Joyce Manor
California pop punk darlings Joyce Manor have always told stories about sad revelations, and their Cheap Trick-like Cody (10/7/2016 via Epitaph Records) is no exception. No song demonstrates this better than “Reversing Machine,” which makes a statement like Nirvana’s In Utero, where the band has found success, but frontman Barry Johnson is still experiencing upset and arrested development, seeing the success merely as luck.
people used to tell me
that I could buy and sell me
there’s no such thing as luck
well, hey, okay, then how do you explain
how things have changed?
Johnson’s baritone yelps over the lightly distorted arpeggios build to an explosive verse. As the chorus crescendos, Johnson sounds defeated, until the lone verse of the song begins with feelings of unrest culminating in a story that probably came from a college show where he was tripping on acid on a school’s campus.
high on LSD
here comes the campus security
to take that away from me
Johnson sounds like he’s shouting in a druggy haze during the verse to attack his dissatisfaction head on. By the time the verse ends, Johnson is almost completely incoherent before the final verse kicks in. It’s a story that’s been told countless times: small band finds success, but the success doesn’t make the artist feel better than when they were struggling. It may seem like a clichéd premise, but Johnson’s impassioned delivery is enough to make up for it.
I wanna see what it means
but I can’t because I’m stuck in a reversing machine
Johnson takes the listener through this emotional whirlwind in just under a minute and a half before returning to the opening chorus. Joyce Manor take a simple, relatable concept and amplify the emotions tenfold. It’s a quarter-life crisis loaded with hysterics, and as the band continue to polish up their sound, “Reversing Machine” may be a final gasp of the raw Joyce Manor. At least the band transitions on a high note.
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cover: Joyce Manor © 2016