Jimmy Eat World’s newest release, Integrity Blues, weaves its way through nearly every subgenre of alternative in 11 songs. It’s got a little bit of progressive rock, a chunk of emo, a healthy dose of pop and a block of dark electronic. It’s diverse, well rounded and flows pretty well. It’s not completely cohesive, but moves through its different phases as gracefully as possible. The first phase is poppy and catchy.
There are select phrases that evoke a warm, fuzzy feeling inside of me. Among them are “Warped Tour” and “Hot Topic.” And I still wholeheartedly believe that it’s perfectly okay to long for Warped Tour and Hot Topic even in 2016. You see, there’s something about teenage angst that epitomizes nostalgia. Something comforting, even. But this same nostalgia reminds us that the heyday of pop-punk has long since passed.
Nine days remain until Joyce Manor release their fourth LP, Cody. In the six years since their 2010 Split with Summer Vacation, the pop-punk/emo quartet has matured in a familiar trajectory. The group toned down the blunt twenty-something angst of their 2011 self-titled debut, added in power-pop motifs and continued putting out unpretentious vignettes through 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired and 2014’s Never Hungover Again. “Fake I.D.,” the first single off of Cody (slated for an October 7 release), resembled the Brit pop-inspired “Heated Swimming Pool” far more than any of the group’s latchkey SoCal musings. I freaked a little when I first heard it, to be honest.
Before getting to “Fake I.D.,” let’s lay down some background on Joyce Manor. The California four-piece works in a grey area between emo and punk. Their lyrics skew far more often towards crypticness than the melodrama in their emo and pop-punk contemporaries’ work. Their songs are complicated, throbbing with raw energy and short: their four LPs all clock in at fewer than 20 minutes. The band’s 2011 self-titled debut posed a commitment to bile and pettiness that continued throughout their later releases.
As the number of members in a given band decreases, the worries of a “Ship of Theseus” transformation increase if band members join on or drop out. As such, Blink-182’s decision to slot in Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba in place of former vocalist and guitarist Tom DeLonge 14 years into their career must have elicited trepidation amongst many long-time fans. In “Bored To Death,” the first single off of Blink-182’s California, which is slated for a July 1 release, fans get a glimpse of Skiba’s contributions to the trio. The new collaborators have seemingly decided to pass on delving into radically new material in their first public debut, instead offering up a song that could easily slot into any of Blink-182’s most middle-of-the-road, polished releases (Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket). “Bored To Death,” however, evidences the darker, more mature tone that Blink-182 has started moving towards as its band members near their mid-40s.
A rising tide may lift all boats, but the bloom of poptimism has not elevated mainstream pop-punk. While Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Rihanna garner acclaim, their pop-punk counterparts have plunged into cliché and empty glitz. Panic! at the Disco’s latest release — Death of a Bachelor — is a testament to the strange monster mainstream pop-punk has become, slathered with cookie-cutter synths, disjointed samples and smarmy lyrics. Death of a Bachelor is credited to Panic!