One of the best bands to emerge in the recent revival of Good Old-Fashioned Proper Emo, Joyce Manor’s fifth LP sees the group take the big leap into adulthood. The songwriting on Million Dollars To Kill Me is more mature, more considered, and wiser than anything they’ve released previously. Even among their eloquent and impassioned contemporaries - Martha, Joanna Gruesome, Mitski - Joyce Manor stand out.
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Slowly eradicating any notion of ever having existed as a No Frills Punk band, Joyce Manor have delivered us ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’, a record as jubilantly hangin’ out as the wine-sloshed album art on its front. It’s a bi-generational thing; Epitaph have described Joyce Manor’s success rate as ‘every other album’, but this one also feels like a spiritual successor to ‘Never Hungover Again’, a record that favours goofiness and friendship over all else. And heck on heck is it catchy.
Joyce Manor’s songwriting team have, over the years, developed other concerns: far from the angular post-hxc of their self-titled record, this one trades in the janglisms of Teenage Fanclub (“Wildflowers”), shoegaze-dipped balladeering (“Gone Tomorrow”) and unapologetic Taylor Swift plagiarisms (“I’m Not the One”). Elsewhere they’re still writing the best Weezer riffs never written in “Think I’m Still In Love With You” and adding Beach Boys ba-ba-daps to their perfectly pissy pop-punk songs in “Fighting Kangaroo”.
Credit where credit’s due, right: I just quickly described five different songs from this album because they’re catchy enough to have quips at the ready for. At first I kinda saw ‘Million Dollars’ as Joyce Manor phoning it in, but now I see it for what it is: a record of miniature experiments, the band holding their hooks tight as they try out different approaches to melody. It’s still a fast, one-and-done, twenty bloody minutes Joyce Manor record, but within those confines it sprawls all over the place. A toast to the band that are never doing anything and can never be killed.
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