Knuckle Puck – ‘Copacetic’ Review

Posted: by Colin

Without trying to place a limit on the extent of which I can enjoy a specific genre of music, it seems like over the last handful of years only one pure and straight forward pop punk record has been released that blatantly stands out amongst the crowd. At this point in my life, I’ve been listening to pop punk to some extent since I was a chubby sixth grade boy who mildly resembled a chubby Andrew McMahon circa Something Corporate. The point is, there’s not much in the genre I haven’t heard. For a majority of people including myself, a handful of records still stand the test of time as the measuring stick for new wave pop punk: The Wonder Years – The Upsides, Transit – Keep This To Yourself, and Fireworks – Gospel. Last year, Temple of Plenty by Somos took the scene by storm, and Copacetic is that album for 2015.

Diving into the album, ‘Wall to Wall (Depreciation)’ is the album’s opening song. The beginning riff is the backbone of the entire track, which is why it’s much more comfortable playing the role of an introductory bridge into Copacetic’s lead single ‘Disdain’, rather than a standalone song.  Once it closes, vocalist Nick Casasanto aggressively takes the forefront, straining “I’ve got a lot to talk about.” Though it may be a statement of obviousness (Who would write if they didn’t have things to talk about?) it’s this ‘throw the first punch’ mentality by the band, which contributes to Copacetic’s authenticity. From that point on, the song blisteringly explodes. Chock full of back-up gang vocals and ringing guitar tones sprinkled amongst gritty riffs, the song’s unrelenting chorus hits like a tidal wave. Thus at under three minutes long, the song is quickly steered into safer waters guided by tight and ambitious yet smooth drum fills, a point of strength throughout the entire album.  

While a moment of tranquility is expected after the hectic song, Knuckle Puck forges on with two upbeat songs “Poison Pet Letter” and “Swing”. The latter shows impressive vocal trade-offs and production, which highlights brief moments of the song up until the chorus erupts, abut a minute and ten seconds in. Unfortunately, the former “Poison Pet Letter” happens to be stylistically and lyrically unmemorable and lethargic. Chords that frequent the genre are played as Casasanto uses the analogy of a past relationship to explain his religious beliefs. A topic addressed so frequently in pop punk, you wonder if the bands within the scene are in collusion. 

One uninspired song early on does not lead to Copacetic’s downfall. “True Contrite”, “In Your Crosshairs”, and “Untitled” are songs so brilliantly imagined and executed, it makes it easy to look past the flaws within the album. “True Contrite” follows two softer songs, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t compare this to something The Starting Line would have written between 2005 and 2007. The tense emotion mirrors “Artistic License” off of ‘Based On A True Story’ and the long, drug out but catchy choruses are reminiscent of “Are You Alone?” off of the band’s final album, Direction

On “In Your Crosshairs” percussion pounding like a racing heartbeat begins, only to stop when Casasanto, after detailing an argument that spans across an entire house, dejectedly asks “How could you do this to me?” Anger gives way to grief, letting the song become the emotional low point on Copacetic.  The song builds from there on out, as the consequent verses are eventually layered on top of each other and then drowned out by the same ambient guitar notes heard in song’s first seven seconds. 

Finally, the closer “Untitled” illustrates the progression and stylistic jump made by Knuckle Puck on their debut LP as the band sheds their pop punk roots for something more tactful. Screams of the word “copacetic” echo throughout as whaling guitars are more cynically crafted, disregarding the fuzzy, fun chords consistently utilized to write songs sounding catchy and fun. In this moment, Knuckle Puck have accomplished their goal of reaching the sound that they have strived for the entire album and thus, potentially hint at their future.

Knuckle Puck is an interesting band to keep an eye on because they have differentiated themselves. It would have been exceedingly easy to release a thoughtless record similar to their previous work. It would have been a safe, it would have sold well, and generally, people would have been receptive to it. After all, it’s what the majority of pop punk bands do after discovering their niche. However, Knuckle Puck’s ability to show maturation, growth, and take risks will give the band more opportunities to create lasting music with high replay value. Though the album is not perfect – many of the opening moments of each song are unrepresentative of what is to come, some of the lyrics are overly simplistic, and the production has an occasional woe, as a whole the record accomplishes what it set out to do. Let the band proclaim that they are here, and they are ready to make a name for themselves by continually pushing each other artistically.