“Second album syndrome” can be a terrible concept. Its symptoms can either make or break a band. Will they be a flash in the pan or are they in for the long haul? For Chicago’s Knuckle Puck it’s certainly going to be the latter. ‘Shapeshifter’ follows 2015’s ‘Copacetic’. Having founded a base of emotive pop-punk with their debut full-length, LP #2 is a lyrically sharper and musically tighter follow-up.
As its title suggests, ‘Shapeshifter’ is lyrically based around the idea of change. Throughout, vocalist Joe Taylor sings about the shift in his relationships and his ideas with a sense of disillusionment. While their perspective may have changed, Knuckle Puck’s reliable brand of emo/pop-punk is firmly intact. Throughout, songs such as ‘Twist’, ‘Gone’ and ‘Stuck In Our Ways’ carry themselves with subtle intensity and plenty of energy. When it comes to crafting infectious hooks, they radiantly pull it off on ‘Want Me Around’, with its solid drums and pleasing guitar melody merely adding to its brilliance.
As for Taylor, his versatility continues to grow. Whereas before his display was dominated by angst, on ‘Want Me Around’ and especially the poignant ‘Conduit’, he compliments their reflective tone. While his back-and-forth vocals with Nick Casasanto are executed neatly. Guitarist Kevin Maida shows flashes with subtle leads throughout, with the rhythmic pairing of bassist Ryan Rumchaks and drummer John Siorek provide a constantly thick backbone to ‘Shapeshifter’.
Overall, Knuckle Puck show flexibility with ease and aren’t fabricated. On later cuts ‘Wait’ and ‘Plastic Brains’, they ride a satisfying wave of emotive rock that is reminiscent of Taking Back Sunday and The Starting Line. Nevertheless, what threads this album together is the band’s underpinned rawness. These songs are rooted in honesty and delivered with unrelenting passion.
In the pop-punk sphere, Knuckle Puck continues to be a shining (and dynamic) beacon of hope. With each passing record, they’re creating an exciting catalogue of songs.
‘Shapeshifter’ by Knuckle Puck is out now on Rise Records.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)