Despite what the name suggests, a reinvention of themselves or a distract change in direction isn’t what pop-punk outfit Knuckle Puck have gone for with their second full-length album. Instead the band have taken their already slick sound and pushed their boundaries, seeming to have perfected it in the process. While the initial recording process was a struggle for the band, once switching producers (going back to Copacetic producer Seth Henderson) they began rebuilding what they had. The result of all this pours through in the ten unrelenting songs that make up Shapeshifter. A strong lyrical theme throughout the album is identity, and it’s clear that Knuckle Puck have not only found their sonic identity but have well and truly perfected it.
The band still hold up to their raw pop-punk roots throughout Shapeshifter, especially in ‘Double Helix’ - which is packed with crunchy guitars and a tasteful distorted bass tone, all topped off with a fierce chanting chorus, the kind that Knuckle Puck have been proving they can deliver flawlessly since the release of their 2014 EP While I Stay Secluded. ‘Stuck In Our Own Ways’ follows suit with an anthemic chorus that allows vocalist Joe Taylor to showcase his voice wonderfully.
What separates Shapeshifter from 2015’s Copacetic is the varying influences that are present throughout the album, for all that it’s worth; this doesn’t just feel like a pop-punk record. A standout example of this is the ferocious ‘Everyone Lies To Me’ which gets delivered with a sense that it’s taken influences from the hardcore genre, with frantic riffy guitar work and some harsh vocals during the verses. It’s two and a half minutes of angst and aggression and it’s brilliant. ‘Nervous Passenger’ acts as a surprising opener, being fairly stripped back for Knuckle Puck (especially compared to previous openers ‘Wall to Wall (Depreciation) and ‘Transparency’) while Nervous Passenger doesn’t jump right out of the gate as a fast-paced track that throws you into the record it instead eases into Shapeshifter in a very effective way.
‘Conduit’ gives the band a chance to show off their softer side as the bass and drums hold the song down with a simple rhythm leaving room for some dreamy guitar sounds. The light tone of the instrumentation is contrasted by the heavy tone reflected in Taylor’s lyrics, with a standout line being ‘You can’t break the boy to forge a better man’.
‘Plastic Brains’ follows in the same vein with clean guitar supporting the opening lyrics before the rest of the band are slowly introduced as Taylor and guitarist, Nick Casasanto, plow through the first verse with excellent call and response vocals. The guitars act as a slow burn throughout the song until finally exploding into a emotional final chorus as the lyric ‘Like plastic brains we change and losing who you thought you were is not the only thing at stake’ reinforces the underlining concept of identity that’s weaved throughout Shapeshifter one last time.
With the varied instrumentals and the almost conceptual lyricism Knuckle Puck have given listeners a lot to think about with this album and they’ve certainly proved to any doubters that they’re never going to deliver the same record twice.