Review || Knuckle Puck - "20/20"

Chicago based pop punkers Knuckle Puck are set to release their third full length record titled “20/20” on September 18th of the year 2020 through Rise Records.

It seems rather incredible how three years went by so fast between Knuckle Puck’s last release “Shapeshifter”. On a personal level, I was well on my way to be fully enamoured by the new age pop punk wave that was sweeping everything on its course from the US and England, mostly, across the entire world. In that sense, 2017’s “Shapeshifter” hit me at exactly the right time and it was a critical blow. I loved everything about that record, which caught me pretty much off guard and pushed its way to probably my favourite spot of records for that specific year; the lyrics, the melodies, the entire vibe and grooving flow of that LP made it sound fresh and upbeat and its playing time spawned a significant longevity in my ears. “This band does EVERYTHING right”, I thought back then. I was almost on a sure route to catch them play live, but their subsequent tour of Europe was cancelled for personal reasons within the band, hence my failure in seeing them perform; it’s the thought that counts I guess, but you can understand the importance Knuckle Puck forged for me, when travelling abroad just for one show sadly isn’t a given in my life anymore. 

A little over two years later, my excitement was promptly re-ignited when the band’s new single “Tune You Out” hit, with no tentative release title or date for a full length. The song picked up exactly were “Shapeshifter” left off and I played it on repeat, not being worried about when the upcoming LP would actually be released; I knew it was a matter of a few months, or so everyone in the world thought. The pandemic changed everything on the musical landscape and with it all plans for marketing an upcoming record went to shit. I’m only assuming that the band was expecting to make two or maybe three more singles available to the public for what was later announced would be part of “20/20” as a whole and aiming for a late May 2020 release date. Sure enough “RSVP” was a second single for the new LP but with no possible live dates available in the near future, Knuckle Puck pushed the release back for four months, giving their fans more singles along the way and basically giving away half the record until this ongoing September; and yes, all songs were amazing and my playlist grew longer and longer. 

Finally, a couple of weeks ago - and thanks to my go-getter editor in chief - I was entitled to an exclusive stream of the entire new record and, well, this year did just get a little bit better. As mentioned, I already had a pretty straight forward idea of what “20/20” would be about; the now trademark but everlastingly fresh groovy guitar riffs and the collectiveness between lead and rhythm, the detrimental part of the drums for Knuckle Puck’s sound and song cohesion and the connectivity with that damn dirty bass and of course the always stellar and tip of the iceberg singing, vocal range and style of Joe Taylor are exactly what make this band so unique within a pretty stagnant genre of punk music. In that framework “20/20” is a very natural continuation of 2017’s “Shapeshifter”; the already mentioned “Tune You Out”, “RSVP” would fit right in that previous record, as would “What Took You So Long” and “Breathe” and maybe even “Into The Blue” and “True North”, the latter being the more post punk emo touches of what basically are pop records in every case. That which feels different with “20/20” is a general shift to a more punk rock side of a musical approach with most of the songs, as well as a more positive lighting with the lyrics; while “Shapeshifter” had a much gloomier perspective of things, “20/20” has a much more feel good vibe to the lyrics, which is a completely accompanying factor for the music. The production is again very similar to “Shapeshifter” with maybe a lighter approach to the guitars and a more balanced natural sounding rhythm section. Well done!

If I were completely honest, the one downer about this record is it doesn’t feel 100% fresh in the sense of a complete body of work, due to the fact that half of the songs on it have had a heavy rotation for me already, which in turn is again completely understandable under these damned circumstances. That explains why currently my favourite songs off the record are the opening title track and “Green Eyes (Polarized)”. I don’t exactly mind, but…thanks pandemic!      

Even in these uncertain times it feels like such a sigh of relief to be able to listen to new music, especially from “new” favourite bands that work hard and are accustomed to delivering. Ironically put, “20/20” did just that and in the most resounding way. Hope to be hearing these songs live soon. 


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