Album Review: Knuckle Puck – Copacetic

imageThe debut album from Chicago’s Knuckle Puck arrives amid feverish anticipation, and it’s not difficult to see why. They’ve earned themselves a reputation for being a hard-working band; previous EP ‘While I Stay Secluded’ was released late last year after a well-received split with Neck Deep and increasingly high-profile support slots, and that hard work led to signing with Rise Records last December, whom notably haven’t signed any pop-punk acts in a while. They’ve joined a roster that includes the likes of Transit and Man Overboard, so they’re in good company, but does ‘Copacetic’ live up to the hype? In one word: absolutely.

The quintet haven’t just employed the same formulae as in the past; their debut allows them to showcase a more expansive and expressive side that was previously only hinted at. Again working with Seth Henderson (’While I Stay Secluded’), who’s also handled production for Real Friends in the past, the band have opted to pursue a more spacious sound that trades in polish for precision. Opener ‘Wall to Wall (Depreciation)’ doesn’t waste any time, setting out the album’s stall with an energetic blast of melody that links up with lead single ‘Disdain’ brilliantly. The music’s frequently bright tone is often at odds with introspective lyrics (“You twist my tongue with costly dividends / Twice the effort, half the outcome / Why won’t I step forward when there’s so much to step for? / I’m sinking lower with every growth spurt / Decay, decay, decay”), but this balancing of light and shade is what makes the music so effective, as evinced by the contrast between the sombre acoustic track ‘Ponder’ and the borderline euphoric ‘Evergreen’, a definite highlight of the record.

Beyond the surface pleasures of the likes of ‘Poison Pen Letter’ (on which frontman Joe Taylor, to our ears, sounds like a dead ringer for Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years), the band explore their options. There’s a more dynamic and ambitious band at work on the likes of ‘In Your Crosshairs’ and ‘Swing’, while the huge-sounding ‘True Contrite’ has them showing off a heavier sound that suits them down to the ground. Closer ‘Untitled’, meanwhile, is an impressive eight minutes in length, and finds the quintet riding out an extended instrumental coda to bring the album to a close.

It’s an unusual move, but ‘Copacetic’ isn’t your usual pop-punk record, frequently playing with song structures and the well-worn genre tropes. It seems that they want to be more than just another band in a scene that, whilst not being quite as saturated as it used to be, requires something special to stand out. They worked hard to get to where they are now, and if their debut is any indication, the next phase of the band could be something quite different. Everything is more than just copacetic here – this is an exciting album from a band who are set to achieve big things.

4/5

‘Copacetic’ by Knuckle Puck is out now on Rise Records.

Knuckle Puck links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Gareth O’Malley (@vetusmemoria)

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