Review || Knuckle Puck - "Shapeshifter"

When Knuckle Puck quietly released the "Calendar Days" seven inch in March of this year, knew I was going to be very happy in the not-so-distant future waiting for their sophomore LP. That day came on October 13th of 2017 when the band released "Shapeshifter" through Rise Records. Knuckle Puck is a new age pop punk band from Chicago, Illinois and their previous record and main effort so far -"Copacetic"- didn't catch as much of my attention as possible; it mostly gave this band a place in the back of my head to keep a lookout for in the future. I loved the "Calendar Days" single. The song played on heavy rotation until very recently, when I had the opportunity to listen to the entire new LP of theirs -"Shapeshifter"- and now I refuse to listen to anything else.

The record is relatively short, like most contemporary pop punk releases; nine full songs and an opening introductory track span out over almost 31 minutes. I read that the band had been well into the recordings of the songs but felt unhappy and in denial with the final outcome. They decided to switch producers, collaborating with "Copacetic"'s Seth Henderson and started again from scratch. I would expect there to be much ambiguity and a loss of purposefulness to "Shapeshifter". It takes a lot of courage, self awareness, mental strength and positivity to actually re-write and re-produce an entire record, admitting to throwing out your previous but fresh material and, while I don't have a clue whatsoever about what the initial outcome was like (but am very curious), I dare to say that to my ears the boys came through on top of things. "Shapeshifter" is everything I want from a pop punk record. Heavy at times and very melodic and riff-y at others. Very catchy for the most part, but atmospheric as well, it is produced perfectly. Clean and distorted, with variety in songwriting, with a great lyrical and singing approach. Joe Taylor can use his voice in a way I envy; whenever it "breaks", I lose my mind. There's a hint of New Found Glory in a couple of songs and a lot of modern touches blazing through "Shapeshifter". Everyone delivers on this record, but the rhythm guitars melding with the drums ideally is what clicks best for me.

The weird thing about "Shapeshifter" is that the actual opening and closing songs ("Twist" and "Plastic Brains") are the calm before and after the storm, which usually "should" be the opposite case to some extent. Good but not the stand out songs. If I had to choose one favorite from the rest I would go with what I bet will be an unpopular choice; "Wait" is something you don't expect from a pop punk record of this genre, the heavy chorus being my frosting on the cake for "Shapeshifter". I cannot wait for the physical version of this record to come falling into my hands.
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