San Francisco punk pop band Joyride! are back with a new album, Half Moon Bay. The record sees the band continue to ply their trademark crunchy and catchy rock with a thoughtful and emotive edge, what their label Salinas Records describe as “10 new songs of mid-temp pop-punk sing-alongs”.
Opener ‘how it feels’ dives right in, the guitars squealing and shredding in carefree triumph. But Jenna Marx’s vocals hold an uncertain edge and bring a depth to things, the emotional texture that puts Joyride! ahead of many bands who try to carve a similar niche. Half Moon Bay deals mainly in pensive reflections on relationships and how they alter with the passing of time. It’s punk pop without the brash sneering, the perfect centre of a Venn diagram between fun rock ‘n roll and reflective bedroom pop. “How it feels is like a steady build / or a subtle loss that you won’t notice ’til your sense of self is gone” Marx sings, “do you feel anything when you look at me after all these years?”
The vocals push through a squall of guitar and crashing percussion on ‘for good’, before the bounding 90 seconds that are ‘hold that thought’ which, in a just universe, would become a car stereo singalong hit.
Another of my favourites is ‘running on empty’, which opens with big crunchy guitars that wouldn’t be out of place on a Japandroids record and the great opening lines “Young and running on empty / you said that you thought I looked pretty with my makeup on / so I went home and I took it off”. The song goes on to talk about how some things remain, sometimes turning stale and sometimes not.
“And he said I don’t wanna grow up
because I don’t wanna grow apart
so we’re just gonna keep showing up
save face from another change of heart”
‘rumors’ comes tearing in from nowhere, before the frenetic energy of ‘bargain barn’ which feels like the breathless (and somehow slightly sad) escape after stealing a sweater, ending with the line “I don’t know why I’m so sentimental”. There are a couple more rockers before the album ends on a reflective note with ‘how to tell her’. ‘girls who wanna realize themselves’ has a rich and fuzzy melody, while ‘boardwalk’ has a mid-tempo 90s alt-rock dynamic, complete with screeching guitar and pounding drums. The aforementioned closer has shades of the stripped-back, frankly honest indie rock of Family Video. It’s a fitting end to what’s a really great album and, after all the thoughts and doubts throughout, leaves the listener with a calm sense of wistful acceptance.
“I’m still mad that we all wound up here
with the same distorted view
I was hoping that one of us would’ve made it out
but we’re still wading through
a waist-deep water, cannon fodder
I know that I’m my mother’s daughter”