ALBUM REVIEW: “20/20” by Knuckle Puck showcases similar yet evolved tendencies for a great third record

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”.

 

Tracklist:

  1. 20/20
  2. Tune You Out
  3. Sidechain
  4. Earthquake
  5. RSVP
  6. Breathe (feat. Derek Sanders)
  7. What Took You So Long?
  8. Into the Blue
  9. Green Eyes (Polarized)
  10. True North
  11. Miles Away

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