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Knuckle Puck Changes Form on "Shapeshifter,” and It’s Not Great

By Peter Ntourntourekas; For the Clock
On November 4, 2017

Pop-punk ensemble Knuckle Puck entered the scene in 2013 with their popular EP, “The Weight That You Buried.” It was a gritty, four-song sophomore showing, and it remains their best work. It had it all--lyrics about their hated hometown, crunchy aggressive guitars and blasting D-beats. Future albums would not be as successful, though the band has been growing since its debut.          

Knuckle Puck has toured with other pop-punk mainstays, such as The Story So Far and Real Friends, though they are usually found in the middle of the billing. Their presence in the scene is undeniable, and their fanfare is usually at least on par with their companions.          

Their new album, "Shapeshifter,” is not more of the same. "Shapeshifter" is a mature album, and that is not meant as a compliment. Part of the driving force of “The Weight That You Buried” was its youthful angst, wailing about teenage relationships and suburban problems. In the years since then, the members of Knuckle Puck have apparently lost that inner turmoil, and it is reflected in their music.       

Lyrically, the music is close to the same as: relationships suck, parents suck and the hometowns that they are contained in suck. On “Want Me Around,” they sing, “Shed a brilliant disguise/ In a disappearing bloom/ I caught the darker shade of you/ Then you dipped like you always do,” which is a classic trope of a lover “revealing their true self” after some time dating. Knuckle Puck’s lyrics are full of those tropes, and while I do not exactly hate genre pieces, this does not have enough of an edge to be considered one.         

If an established band like Blink-182 or Yellowcard were to sit back and crank out genre pieces that I found kind of “meh,” I would not be too surprised. When a band that has been around for long enough, I think it is unfortunately common. Knuckle Puck is not nearly elderly enough to write something like "Shapeshifter.”  

The band’s website tries to justify this by saying that they tightened their sound and refined their songwriting, but all I hear is a lack of drive. It does not sound as if the band is actually in the same headspace that they were when they wrote their more blistering songs. I do not want to glorify sadness, but in the case of Knuckle Puck, it sounds like they are happy people trying to write sad music, which doesn’t always turn out well.

In the end, "Shapeshifter" is filler in the discography of a band with a great debut. I would recommend previous albums way before I recommended "Shapeshifter,” and I do not feel bad about that. Punk music requires some edge, and this album is kind of pedestrian. In the future, I hope that Knuckle Puck shapeshifts into the band they used to be, so I can go back to buying their vinyl.


Rating: 3/10

Best Song: “Want Me Around”

Worst Song: “Everything Else”

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