Joyce Manor is straight to the point. Always were. Always will be. Never Hungover Again doesn't deviate from that plan. It sticks to their stylistic guns but also decides to foray into new avenues fans were intrigued to see them wander in, and also into even more surprising little nooks and crannies -- all of which end up wowing much more than first expected. If you felt their previous records were the best short bursts of energy they had packed in their punk armada, well, guess again. This album comes off as the most definitive and most complete that Joyce Manor have to offer.
Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired felt like it was missing something -- that special flair that their 2011 self-titled had. It was pretty solid but lacked the extra energy that "Constant Headache" and "Leather Jacket" possessed. That magic's re-found and then amplified with even more upbeat, whimsical, whiny punk. It's worth touting on so many different levels. Honestly, this is pop-punk done remarkably well and if I could see them and State Lines live, I'd feel like I got my money's worth. Their method continues as lanky three-chord jams but packs the emotional thrift and humorous wallop you came to love. Barry Johnson's vocals make for catchy, simple and really fun pop-punk and if you forgot, then refer to "Victoria" and "Christmas Card." They prove a stark reminder of just why 2011 was the year to take note of them. They didn't ditch or even shift up many old tones which I felt they did last time around. Instead, they crafted the sound they know best -- by really going back to basics. Joyce Manor's most musically informative attributes are staight-forward punk, nasal little croons, bouncing guitars that careen with near-perfect melody and jangly power chords. Throw in a stepped-up game of melancholy, synth, Brit-pop guitars and you've got new spice in the pot. This is what they cook with on the addictive Never Hungover Again.
Opting to wander out of the sandbox also manages to come off much better as there's a higher balance and greater finesse this time around. "Falling In Love Again" is where the curveballs begin. It has an '80s-era vibe a la The Cure, Morrissey and The Smiths. Channeling this works further wonders on another bass-driven hit in "Heart Tattoo" -- keeping their playful tone but still fleshing out growth and development. It's not too bold nor is it too timid. The tempo's quite gleeful in its simplicity but Joyce Manor feel even more assured, focused and confident than in the past. They scrape 20 minutes of pure joy in such a fast manner, covering a wide assortment of topics. The album's subdivided with mature themes as well but you know you're really here for the wringing rhythyms on the juvenile life and the young, wasted and restless days. They don't stutter in making their statements and Johnson's pained, wrangly vocals impact so much on "Schley" and "End Of The Summer" which bring forth images of sweaty basement moshing with strangers. I swear it takes you three years back.
Fast-paced. Sing-along. Character-driven. Yep, they manage to top themselves in ways I didn't think was possible. I knew they had it in them but for some reason I felt they'd go explore a less-fresh vibe in a fashion that would offset the familiar sound I fell in love with. Whatever doubts I had, they're gone. I knew Joyce Manor would put out a good record but Never Hungover Again is pop-punk astonishment. Year-end lists are already making room.