One of my favorite aspects of my time at Wheaton has been WCCS, Wheaton’s radio station. I joined in freshman year and now serve as its general manager. What initially drew me to WCCS was the ability to share the music I loved with the rest of the student body, because I have a lot of music I love and a lot to say about it. When the opportunity to do so in the Wire arose, I leapt at the chance.
When I first heard Graduating Life’s “An Introduction to Rock and Roll,” I was shocked at how so great a band could be so little-known. “Introduction” would be impressive for a more popular or more storied band; Grad Life’s lack of both makes it all the more astounding.
“Introduction” is ambitious and affecting. Despairingly honest and horribly distressing pronouncements are amplified in their naked emotion by frontman Bart Starr’s strained delivery. Yet the album has a laughing-in-a-graveyard vibe; references to “Dinosaur,” Reddit and internet pop-up ads will make you laugh out loud between the tears. And neither the sadness nor the jokes do anything to undermine Grad Life’s fantastic rock songcraft.
Despite what the title suggests, straight-up rock isn’t all “Introduction” has to offer; “Arkadelphia” uses a harmonica to subtle effect, an accordion plays out the end of “Die! Murder! Die!” and album highlight “Cold Raviolis” features a piano part and a trumpet.
“An Introduction to Rock and Roll” is an epic tragicomedy of an album, sure to bring Graduating Life more of the attention that they so rightfully deserve.
Another recent favorite is Joyce Manor’s “Cody,” an album by a more established yet still recent band. Whereas Joyce Manor’s past releases had been bracingly brisk, “Cody” keeps the band’s characteristic brevity but gives the songs more room to breathe. This gives rise to more subtle moments like “Do You Really Not Want to Get Better” and “Last You Heard of Me,” in addition to tracks like “Make Me Dumb” and “Reversing Machine” that are more in keeping with the band’s punk roots.
In many respects, “Cody” is reminiscent of Weezer’s “Pinkerton”: the oddly specific references, shockingly honest confessions and abrasive yet accessible sound of the underrated classic. But don’t think Joyce Manor is a slavish imitation of things past; I honestly can’t think of a band that could display depression as poetically as they do in “Angel in the Snow,” or one that could use humor to cover up pain as effectively as they do in “Fake I.D.”
Of course, lyrical brilliance means nothing if you don’t have the songwriting skills to back it up. Fortunately, “Cody” is full of earworms that will ensure Joyce Manor’s unique sound and writing will remain in your mind for weeks to come.
Categories: Arts and Culture