Joyce Manor’s eponymous album was released in 2011. I wouldn’t hear it until 3 years later, when I, at the fervent age of 17, came across the album stream via a YouTube recommended video. I’m fairly sure I’d just been on a two week Modern Baseball binge, so I suppose the little algorithm gremlin that lives inside my browsing history knew what I was looking for.
I’m hesitant to call Joyce Manor a pop-punk band, as I feel that does a disservice to their music. I don’t hate pop-punk; but this isn’t it. Equally, they’re not really an ’emo’ band- that word feels essentially meaningless now. They’re definitely not a pop band, but they’re still somehow the poppiest band I know of that treats the crash cymbal like a housefly that just wont leave you alone (read: it sounds like it’s all they ever hit). They’re not thrash metal either- but goddamn, do they make me one to thrash and goddamn, do they make me FEEL metal. I have no idea what this album is classified. I don’t know where I’m going with this. Let’s move on.
So what sort of 17 year old was I? Well, I wasn’t particularly angry. I played a lot of Final Fantasy. I had friends. I didn’t have much to be angry about- or maybe, I made sure I wouldn’t have anything to feel angry about.
So why was I so drawn to an album that clocks in at just under 18 minutes, that’s almost entirely a processing of various forms of anger? Take the opener, ‘Orange Julius’, for instance-
“I’m down here under the pavement so inept until
I grab that pen beside you jam it into your eye
See, now you’re my kind of man, now you’re a stand up kind of guy”
God fucking damn, I love this lyric so much. It’s so visceral; as you hear it you almost FEEL like you’re jamming a pen into someone’s eye. It’s angry, that’s for sure. I’d go a step further. It’s seething. And yet, it’s oddly self-deprecating. ‘Now you’re my kind of man! You’re a stand up kind of guy!’ It’s eye-for-an-eye, literally. Now we feel equal. This pain is shared. Anyway, let’s be friends. The entire song is a fury of pain, seemingly endless hate; and yet it has these moments of acceptance. It’s not bitter- it feels so fantastic, so extreme that it’s almost a parody. This is real anger. The kind you hold under your skin, the kind you let bubble and fester until you can’t take it anymore. And what happens then- do you let it out? No, you just let it go and start again.
“I torch up your house while your kids are at home/
What can you do when you’re not getting sober
It’s hard to admit, but you’re always feeling alone.”
Okay, this one is even worse than the last. Clearly though, JM aren’t advocating torching someone’s kids. It’s a cry for help. Trying to explain how this makes me feel is a weird one, because I don’t like advocating for lyrics that suggest such a distinct act of violence. I firmly doubt this is what JM want to get across, yet even in defending myself enjoying it I feel unease. I guess that’s a testament to how this song makes me feel. Maybe that’s a testament to how it feels to be angry. Maybe I’m reading too far into it.
“You having sex in the morning, your love was foreign to me
It made me think maybe human’s not such a bad thing to be
But I just laid there in protest, entirely fucked”
If you only know JM for one song, you’ll probably know them for this song. I mean, it slaps, for one. It also has one of the best double entendre’s I’ve ever seen. One of the most intimate, personal acts two people can take part in reduced to a snarky line and a weird feeling of emptiness. It’s an empty sort of anger, an anger without direction- the kind that fills you up and leaves you lost for words.
What’s most important throughout all of this is that JM never seems to direct this anger at any one person. Sure; it’s going somewhere, and there’s most certainly a (I’m assuming, hopefully) fictionalised subject being addressed in every song. But this subject is intangible. There isn’t just one specific ex-girlfriend, and there aren’t layers-upon-layers of intrinsic personalisation made to clearly reflect a real world subject. This feels much nicer. Sure, JM are angry, but who are they hurting with their anger?
I’d argue, no one.
This is what matters to me, and why I find I can return to it time and time again. It doesn’t deal with anger in any specific regard. While it does, admittedly, wallow in that anger; it still manages to feel constructive. It’s okay to feel angry sometimes. Let it out creatively. Let it out here, let it out now. But don’t let it seep into the outside world. That’s what it told me.
So today, I’ll turn my headphones up. My phone will tell me I’m in danger of damaging my hearing if I sustain it for an extended period of time.
But hey, the album’s only 20 minutes long.