Joyce Manor’s “Cody” tries to relate

By: Kristin Helf, Assistant Arts & Life Editor

Joyce Manor has been one of my favorite bands since I was an angsty senior in high school and heard “Constant Headache” for the first time. I didn’t think the song’s lyrics were written from the point of view of a dog, like many fans have speculated (and which Joyce Manor has, sadly, denied), but I really liked it anyway, and they’re one of the few bands I still follow now, as a slightly-less-angsty senior in college.

Joyce Manor released its fourth studio album, “Cody,” on Oct. 7, and I was ecstatic because it was, as a whole, so much better than I’d expected it to be. The band released the single “Fake I.D.” way before the rest of the album, and I initially liked it because it was catchy and the music video reminds me of going to shows in Baltimore and feeling disdainful at all the people there who are cooler than me — that’s not the point of the video, just what I took from it.

But “Fake I.D.” was my initial impression of the album, and the lyrics were super disappointing, because the narrator is disappointed in the post-coitus conversation he has with this girl.

The sex is good, but then she’s all, “What do you think about Kanye West? / I think he’s great, I think he’s the best / Yeah, I think he’s better than John Steinbeck / And I think he’s better than Phil Hartman.”

No offense, Barry Johnson (Joyce Manor’s vocalist/guitarist/prime songwriter), but I’m a relatively not-stupid English major and I would much rather listen to Kanye than read Steinbeck.

I’m optimistic that the pop punk/punk/emo genre is becoming more aware of women in these spaces that have been historically, overwhelmingly male, and that stereotypically male “rock” genres will become more welcoming to minorities as the rest of America does.

Relegating a woman you had sex with to nothing more than some girl with bad taste, just because she likes mainstream rap and doesn’t necessarily appreciate classic literature by old white dudes, is kind of a dumb thing to write a song about. And, in a subtle way, it promotes the stereotype that women can’t appreciate specific forms of art.

Despite my feelings about “Fake I.D.,” I really enjoy “Cody” and might even favor it to all of Joyce Manor’s previous albums (I even like it more than “Yeezus”—and I’m a woman!).

Critics’ opinions differ. When you search “Cody” online, the first two reviews that appear are from The A.V. Club, called “The young punks of Joyce Manor struggle to grow up,” and Spin, which says “Joyce Manor’s vital pop-punk enters adulthood on ‘Cody.’” Such contradictory reviews reflect that the band has matured in terms of music, though maybe not so much in terms of content (see: “Do You Really Want To Not Get Better?”and “This Song Is A Mess But So Am I”). But that’s okay. There’s a wider gap between now and the band’s formation in 2008  compared to now and when I started listening to them in 2012, but I’m still struggling to be an emotionally stable grown-up, too. Sometimes things are hard. But if Joyce Manor continues to write music that mostly doesn’t alienate their mostly-female fanbase, I think we’ll continue to understand.   

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