REVIEW: Knuckle Puck – ‘While I Stay Secluded’

While I Stay Secluded available now via Bad Timing Records.

Knuckle Puck already has a cult following, and they haven’t even released a full-length album yet.  The release of their last EP, The Weight That You Buried, proved that Knuckle Puck was ready to compete with the big dogs in pop punk. With the release of their new EP, While I Stay Secluded, the Chicago-based band has only solidified that, further showing that they have what it takes to be talked about in the same breath as pop punk vets The Wonder Years and The Story So Far. Start doing your finger exercises because there’s going to be a lot of angry finger pointing going on while listening to this new collection of songs from Knuckle Puck.

While people like to joke about the stereotypes surrounding the pop punk genre, the bands involved embrace them. (Who wouldn’t want to be associated with pizza? But, I digress.) It’s the songs about alienation and being misunderstood that most relate to the audience. No matter what phase of life you’re currently in, you can recall a time when things weren’t peachy keen. On While We Stay Secluded, Knuckle Puck hones in and lyrically illustrates those moments of frustration and uncertainty in life. Several of the songs are named after places that have had a significant impact on the lives of the band members, whether positive or negative.

The EP begins with “Transparency,” a catchy number filled with sharp guitar riffs and an explosive chorus. The lyrics express concern about willingness people have to share personal thoughts on social media. In the chorus, lead singer Joe Taylor sings out, “Instead of practicing honesty/You plaster your life on cell phones for all to see/And I guess you’ll never get it/Nothing’s sacred.”

“But Why Would You Care?” holds down the middle of the EP. The song starts out intimately with only guitars and vocals. When the drums kick in, it will prompt a collective head bang from every listener. The lines that stick out the most are the ones emphasized by Taylor. He has a way of picking moments during the most hard-hitting lyrics, and it comes across very clearly in this song.

The greatest thing about pop punk music is the ability of bands to take lyrics that are so powerful and meaningful and scream them at the top of their lungs along with the crowd. It’s these moments that elicit raw emotion from Taylor and allow him a chance to connect with the audience even more.

The opening guitar riff of “Bedford Falls” will act as an instant trigger for fans at live shows. While the song is catchy, it’s the lyrics that take center stage on this track, dealing with living out your dreams while still remembering the ones who helped you achieve them. It’s by far the most sentimental and lyrically brilliant piece on the EP.

Most releases have downfalls, or songs that don’t quite match up with the rest of the release, but While I Stay Secluded is gold from start to finish. There isn’t one song that slows down or let’s up from Knuckle Puck’s full-throttle energy.

In “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks says, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Well, we aren’t talking about baseball, and this isn’t a movie. But this is music, and there’s no holding back in pop punk.