Bands typically grow in one of two possible directions. Most bands tend to grow forward, writing better songs and better melodies while growing their fan base. Every once in a while, a good band grows backwards. It happens, though it sucks to see happen. I’ve been a fan of California’s Joyce Manor since I first heard their blend of emo tinged punk, so I was sad to hear their latest record Million Dollars To Kill Me. On it, the band sounds disjointed – almost as if three different bands contributed to the songs. While this should have been a step in the right direction, as catchy as some of the songs are, none are memorable even after the first listen.
Where the band’s last album Cody was produced by Rob Schnapf and ushered in a new ere where the band grew as songwriters, that’s not remotely the case here. The opening track “Fighting Kangaroo” opens strong, and is one of the two better written songs on the record. It’s definitely catchy, and even a bit memorable with its head bopping pace. Though by the second song, “Think I’m Still In Love With You,” it’s a bit obvious that the band isn’t attempting to reinvent the wheel. Falling on old habits, lyrics that sound like teen angst, and a predictable stride are all over the track. When it’s your tenth year as a band, it’s your chance to gain even more fans, though the song sounds like something a teenager would write, minus mentions of pizza and mall hangs.
While “Big Lie” is the second track worth noting, reminding most listeners of The Replacements in the most obvious way, the track isn’t enough to save the album. The tracks “Million Dollars To Kill Me,” “Silly Games,” and “Friends We Met Online” sound like second rate Weezer, or maybe current day Weezer.
The final three tracks of the album sound like songs written by three separate acts starting with the upbeat and almost pop punk sound of “Up The Punx,” before the acoustic lead sounds of “Gone Tomorrow,” that could be a saving grace here, but it falls flat. In fact, these songs are so different than the opening tracks, that you might think your streaming service skipped over to a playlist rather than one album from the same group. The final track, “Wildflowers” is lazy and these guys could do so much better. If the rumors are true, that this record started out as a solo effort from singer Barry Johnson, then maybe it should have stayed that way.
You can stream Million Dollars To Kill Me on all streaming platforms or grab your own directly from Epitaph Records. You can catch Joyce Manor on tour starting October 9 in Woodstock, New York at Colony all the way until February 3 in Nashville, Tennessee at The Basement East. A full list of tour dates can be found here.
Image Credits: Photo Courtesy of Epitaph Records.