You really need to know how to take advantage of the cheese if you want to make it as a band in the pop-punk scene. When I say cheese, I don’t mean any of the pop-punk troupes – like “I hate this town” or “My friends over you” or something to do with pizza – that are so easy to parody. What I’m talking about is intrinsic lightheartedness that comes with most pop punk – the feeling that makes you want to get in the pit even when it is full of 16-year-old fans and you think you’re getting too old to jump to this stuff.
All good pop-punk bands that have made it have learned how to use that element of cheese and refurbished it into something stronger. It is really difficult to do this successfully, especially with the resurgence of talent from every direction. Then there are bands like Knuckle Puck, which just proudly announced its signing to Rise Records yesterday. With this, these guys proved that their longevity in this scene is yet to be seen and it is contributed by how they know how to use that particular element and make it their own as noted in their recent fall release, While I Stay Secluded.
“Transparency” jumpstarts the EP. It is still very much Knuckle Puck and, honestly, quite generic-sounding pop punk – but it is done exactly right. Everything from the background vocals to the rhythm changes and to the lyrics sending out a strong criticism about social media are crafted carefully into place.
“Oak Street” and “Alexander Pl.” follow; they are both good, but they fall a little flatter compared to how strong the opener was. No severe harm is done, though, because then “But Why Would You Care?” picks up the pace. Surely, it has already easily become a crowd favourite with its angsty lyrics that are honestly a bit too juvenile, but it works in context of the song. The end sounds familiarly like The Story So Far and even if it was not intentional, it sounds like a short, nice homage to a band that has already made it.
The next song, “In My Room,” also sounds like another band closely tied to Knuckle Puck: Real Friends. It makes sense considering how both bands are from Chicago, they're friends and are likely to bounce off each other's energy subconsciously. It is good, but again, compared to the strength of the previous track, it falls flatter.
Then there is “Bedford Falls” to close off the EP, and it flawlessly harnesses Knuckle Puck’s distinctive charm. I did not dislike that the previous tracks reminded me of related bands, but this song is so clearly Knuckle Puck – and yet it is also much better and newer. The rhythm and vocals change pace frequently. There is so much range and the simple and relatable lyrics are only the cherry on top of an already great song. It is easily some of the band’s best work to date and it shows the well-deserved move onto a bigger label.
In the new year, Knuckle Puck plans to finally release its first full length. It is yet to be seen if the band will hold its own, but Knuckle Puck has consistently impressed thus far. I have been using the poor cheese analogy lately for a lack of a better word, but what I’m really trying to say is this: the special thing about this band is that it has retained its local band freshness with each release while still producing something even more provocative.
Who knows what Knuckle Puck will release next year or how a bigger production will shape the sound of the members, but for now they seem to know what they are doing – and they are not disappointing.