By Marvin Dotiyal, Staff Writer
Key Tracks: “Twist”, “Double Helix”, “Everyone Lies to Me”
There’s only so much you can do with pop-punk these days. That sweet chord progression you thought was fresh and crisp—it’s been written a million times by now. You want to try breakdowns in C major? A Day to Remember already did it. With the genre’s washed-up sound, synergy is the heart and hope of pop-punk today. It has become critical to find how each note and rhythm complement each other. Knuckle Puck has certainly done it before, but not on their sophomore LP, Shapeshifter.
The album starts out rather gracefully with “Nervous Passenger”, a nice short introduction that represents the typical Knuckle Puck sound. Every band goes through a transitional phase, both musical and personal, and this song presents that with a metaphor of being a “nervous passenger” in times of change. After setting the right tone for the album, the band brings in “Twist”, which is arguably the best song in the album. “Twist” stands out much more than the rest of the tracks for having a less formulaic song structure, showing progression by adding a bit of flair to their usual pop-punk vibe. The song illustrates desperate emotions of a missed encounter, which becomes an unhealthy obsession as distance grows: “I’ve been wandering / Hopelessly lost in my own skin / Knowing nothing to say or scream / To ever bridge the distance.”
“Double Helix” is an angsty tune with a relatively catchy chorus. With lyrics expressing vocalist Joe Taylor’s disdain for being related to his father, Taylor repeats: “Take take oh please just take it back / I don’t want your double helix,” referencing to the double helix DNA structure we inherit. A lot of emotion is ingrained in this album as always, but that mostly lies in Taylor’s soaring vocals. In tracks like “Everyone Lies to Me”, Taylor’s melodic harsh vocals play a significant role in revealing emotion and intensity.
Halfway through the album, however, things get pretty repetitive and predictable: hard-hitting drums and crunchy guitars while Taylor cries his heart out with a dictionary by his side (KP tends to use a lot of odd, big words). It’s hard to tell how the band wants the listeners to feel when the same formula is repeated throughout; a lot of the songs just sound the same. It’s almost as if this album can “shapeshift” into one long song because only a few songs actually stand out. The vocal trade-offs and the heart-racing instruments work, but it does just enough to provide a solid foundation for a song. It’s like the pieces of a puzzle fall in place, but the pieces are blank. In other words, the album simply lacks synergy and originality.
The album isn’t terrible by any means; it definitely has its moments, but the album is uninspiring and lackluster as a whole. For the most part, Shapeshifter represents the hackneyed pop-punk sound that stagnates the genre. Half of the songs are subpar fillers; some are downright plain and even pretentious, and the songwriting is almost lackadaisical at times. Above all, it’s easy to forget that Shapeshifter is still their sophomore album in Knuckle Puck’s musical career, but this album is quite forgettable.