A lot of modern pop-punk is focused on trying to push boundaries. Many are fixated on the signature “mid-2000s” influences that was a penchant of every artist’s foundation, and trying to combine those characteristics with other genres (namely indie, emo rock, and shoegaze) has become the priority for several up-and-coming acts. Knuckle Puck, with the release of Copacetic, brought forth a staple pop-punk record that hearkened the height of new-wave pop punk; harshly tinged, years-past-evocative rock music. The release of their second album Shapeshifter took a more alternative approach to listening; slight bouts of Midwest emo, alternative rock, and even hardcore (“Everyone Lies to Me”) shaped the mold for what was a mostly polarizing succeeding effort. With junior album 20/20, the Chicago five-piece managed to find a blend of what brought them to the forefront with their own artistic flair to create a unique album in a sea of monotony that resides within the genre.
“20/20” begins the record with an infectious riff that is sure to be stuck in your head before the distortion leads into vocalist Joe Taylor’s powerful verses and a powerful chorus, setting the tone for the rest of the record: full of energy and elation. “Tune You Out” has been out for quite a while, but it feels just as fresh in the context of the tracklist with emphasis placed on the chorus: an extra punch from the instrumentation drives home the contrasting subtlety of the verses. “Sidechain” is one of the highlights on the entire record and provides some wonderful melodic moments; Taylor’s ability to write an earworm is unmatched compared to his peers. “Earthquake” feels like a song that was written exclusively for summer; cascading guitars and the infectious drumming of John Siorek gives this pop-leaning song gives a higher level of replay value.
“RSVP” is a bit more fast-paced than what we’ve heard at this point of the record, but benefits from a catchy chorus; I feel the melodies in the verses are a bit off-kilter and throw the song slightly off. “Breathe” remains my favorite song on the record despite being a single, and the Derek Sanders feature makes a match in pop-punk heaven for listeners. “What Took You So Long?” was a weird choice to market as a single in my opinion; the song isn’t inherently bad, per se, but compared to some of the other choices on the back half of the album, it fell flat a bit in comparison. “Into the Blue” recalls some of vocalist Taylor’s previous experiences during the recording of Copacetic and channels into a more emotionally resonant insertion into the record.
“Green Eyes (Polarized)” has the catchiest guitar riff on the entire album and erupts into a chorus that sounds straight off of a Mayday Parade record – a slower song, the band really showcases their more intimate side compared to the onslaught of positive vibes we have been fed. “True North” is a pretty standard song as well, with the highlight being the soaring chorus supplemented by fluttering guitar work by Kevin Maida and Nick Casasantos. 20/20 ends with “Miles Away”, accompanied with a sing-along chorus and an amplified sense of urgency to close out Knuckle Puck’s third trip around the studio.
The aptly titled record is a pretty great (albeit unintentional) dichotomy to the world around us today. The underlying theme of 20/20 is to find the positivity in mundane things, no matter how much life is bogging down. Despite not displaying the raw angst on Shapeshifter, Knuckle Puck have managed to create a record that not only can serve as a beacon of hope for times to come, but as a reminder to generations that not everything in life has to be doom and gloom; there will always be a form of positivity as long as you have the strength and determination to discover it.
I give 20/20 by Knuckle Puck an 8 out of 10.
My picks for the album are “Sidechain”, “Breathe (feat. Derek Sanders)”, and “Into the Blue”.
- Tune You Out
- Breathe (feat. Derek Sanders)
- What Took You So Long?
- Into the Blue
- Green Eyes (Polarized)
- True North
- Miles Away