Knuckle Puck seem to have learned quite a bit from their string of EPs crafting a debut album that doesn’t reek of that same angry pop-punk you’ve come to expect from many of today’s heavyweight bands (The Story So Far in particular). On Copacetic Knuckle Puck have essentially taken the impressive highlights of their earlier work and added newer aspects in place of the generic twaddle that had filled out most of their previous releases.
Embracing musical influences outside their immediate genre has worked out incredibly well, album closer Untitled borrows heavily from American Football’s Never Meant, with long stretches of simplistic guitar work separating the more active vocal driven segments of the track. In essence it sounds like something you’d expect from The Hotelier, but Knuckle Puck manages to make the song their own, mostly through the improved use of their dual vocal setup.
The vocal output tends to be the most obvious improvement between the EPs and album, previously Joe Taylor suffered from Real Friends syndrome; not knowing when to scream, shout or sing and instead mashing it all together and hoping for the best, on Copacetic we find Taylor finally learning how to utilise his vocal work in conjunction with the instrumental side of the band; less of a Parker Cannon and more of a Daniel Campbell. It’s not just Taylor learning when to do the right thing though, guitarist and backing vocalist Nick Casasanto has improved also, functioning more as an extra instrument than a focal point of the band, Casasanto’s output is reduced to a more haunting airy background voice that seeps in at just the right moments to add extra depth to the overall sound, it’s a choice that pays off as Taylor is given more room to move around the sound space without the listener being subjected to a cluttered atrocity.
As far as instrumental work is concerned not a lot has changed, the band does demonstrate a better understanding of dynamics, where previously their output had been very top heavy, it’s not uncommon for songs to feature repeating motifs throughout that serve well to establish a ground point before breaking off into a variety of divergent song structures. It sounds more innovative than it is, but Copacetic is definitely a step above and beyond anything Knuckle Puck has done before. There’s still room to grow, but as far as standard pop-punk goes Knuckle Puck haven’t done much wrong, hopefully their next work embraces some of the non-punk influences showcased here and pushes them further into the overarching sound but for now it’s enough.