Rise Records · October 12, 2017
[three_fourth]Knuckle Puck’s first album Copacetic was a pop-punk dream. Simple yet meaningful lyrics and heavy, intricate guitar and drum instrumentals made them the perfect band to mosh to. However, on their EP Calendar Days/Indecisive, the band decided to shift their sound, with lead singer Joe Taylor’s vocals coming to the forefront. Their new album Shapeshifter has the same key components, but takes them in a new direction. With a train as their new logo, the band moves full steam ahead into new territory.
The album begins with “Nervous Passenger,” a song about someone who doesn’t know where they’re going, but hopes someone will be there for them when they get there. In the background, the sounds of a train platform play, signaling the start of the album. The sudden vocals and instrumental buildup move straight into “Twist.” Sadly, this is one of the only good transitions on the album, something the band excelled at on their previous record.
“Twist,” “Double Helix,” and “Gone” all recall the classic Knuckle Puck sound. Lyrics like “I’ve been wandering hopelessly/ Lost in my own skin/ Knowing nothing you say or bring” and “Can I rewrite my code? / Retain the good and purge the bad/ You’re fraying at the fabric/ I’m pulling at the strands” explore self-realization and overcoming the challenges surrounding it. These are the lyrics Knuckle Puck fans love to scream back at the band during shows.
“Gone” was initially released as the album’s first single. On first listen, I thought it felt too light. Single power chords and the lead guitar playing just three notes back and forth felt lazy. But in the context of the album, it makes sense. “Double Helix” and “Everyone Lies to me” are the rawest guitar tracks on the album. Having “Gone” in-between the two amplifies how heavy both of those songs are. After a couple listens, “Gone” has gone up on my list as one of the better songs on the album.
The last few tracks are totally new to the band’s sound. “Wait” and “Plastic Brains” have lush guitar chords layered beneath Taylor’s raw vocals. These songs also feature multiple layered guitar and vocal tracks, making the band sound fuller than ever.
Shapeshifter does a lot right, but there are some technical shortcomings. Some of the mixing on “Nervous Passenger,” “Twist,” and “Stuck in Our Ways,” is muffled and unappealing. Taylor’s lyrics are a bit convoluted at times, like on “Double Helix,” “Take take oh please just take it back/ I don’t want your double helix” repeated six times doesn’t really add anything to the song.
At only thirty minutes long, Knuckle Puck was able to create a much more in-depth sound on Shapeshifter. It didn’t have any of the jaw dropping moments that Copacetic had, but it also didn’t have the dull moments that accompanied them either. Shapeshifter is a positive entry to Knuckle Puck’s already amazing discography and is something old and new Knuckle Pucks can enjoy.
Favorite Track: “Nervous Passenger”
Listen to Shapeshifter here: