Album Review: Knuckle Puck – 20/20
Given the strain the coronavirus pandemic continues to place on the world, it’s no surprise that in recent months many musicians have turned to COVID-19 for inspiration, with Bring Me The Horizon’s Parasite Eve, blink-182’s Quarantine and The Struts’ Strange Days all examples of corona-centric lyrics finding their way into rock. Evidently, 2020’s testing times have yielded some great music, but much of it doesn’t exactly offer hope for a brighter tomorrow. Then, there’s Knuckle Puck’s new album, 20/20.
Written prior to the outbreak, the Chicago pop-punks’ third LP bursts with positivity and an infectious energy, the kind of pick-me-up we could all do with right now. According to vocalist/guitarist Nick Casasanto, Knuckle Puck went into this album “wanting to give people a reason to feel good,” and on that criteria alone they’ve undoubtedly delivered.
From the outset, 20/20 is incredibly upbeat, with the title-track finding its creators expanding on their trademark pop-punk sound by adding in some more withheld moments, a feat they repeat on the similarly composed Tune You Out. It’s evident in the sunnier disposition and more accessible song structures Knuckle Puck have adopted on 20/20 that the band have worked hard to push their sound further out of the confines of generic pop-punk, something to which the carefree nature of tracks like Sidechain and Breathe – the latter of which features Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders – attest. It’s on 20/20’s fourth track, Earthquake, however, that this development in the band’s songwriting really comes to the fore.
A track born for fun-filled summer days, Earthquake is the best piece of music Knuckle Puck have put their name to. Taking a more refined approach to pop-punk than they have in the past, Earthquake is built around irresistible power-pop hooks and youthful lyrics (‘You look so good, you’ve got me confused/I can’t just cover it up like your first tattoo’). It’s an unapologetically simple sugar-rush of a song that, despite being a little cheesy, just bloody works, and a fine example of how music doesn’t always have to break the mould or put the world to rights in order to be effective.
For all this positivity, however, 20/20 isn’t a perfect record, and it’s pretty front-loaded. Case in point: frontman Joe Taylor’s triumphant lyrical bent of optimism still carries through on songs like True North and Miles Away, but musically, these tracks fall more into the functional pop-punk territory this band made their name on.
The end result, though, is that the strength of 20/20’s merits outweigh its occasional flaws. And at a time when it feels like the world has well and truly gone to shit, the resilient and spirited effort Knuckle Puck put in here is more than welcome.
For Fans Of: Neck Deep, State Champs, Seaway
20/20 is released on September 18 via Rise Records
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