Too Much Joy: All These Fucking Feelings [Album Review]

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Too Much Joy
All These Fucking Feelings
Propeller Sound Recordings [2022]

It seems that when the members of Too Much Joy pulled their instruments out of mothballs to make last year’s Headphone Approved 2021 release Mistakes Were Made after their 25 year hiatus, they were clearly having too much fun. A year later, they return with another fan-funded release, a baker’s dozen of fun, punky, power-pop takes on life and All These Fucking Feelings. The band that was famously compared to “Randy Newman fronting The Clash” is still writing dark, satirical yet insightful, funny songs that still hit hard enough to leave a mark.

The album opens with a thoughtful reflection on the routines that tend to shape most of our days, “We May Yell at 8,” but we soon fall asleep on the couch and hustle off to bed so that we can rise at 6 and get to work by 9. On the one hand there’re the occasional reminders of “What Pricks We Were” before we knew any better (and a few times after we did), but on the other hand we can look back on “Our History In Hugs,” the sentimental reminders of the times we drew close. Yet for all our claims of going our own way, “Fortune Telling’s Easy” because we all are really just hoping that “things work out OK.” It turns out we’ve got enough in common that our “dreams are all clichés, since “everyone is lonely, and worried, and sorry, and searching for something.”

Musically, much here is the basic melodic punk/pop that has been central to the band’s sound dating back to their major label brush with mainstream success, the 1991 album Cereal Killers. They are led by vocalist Tim Quirk, with Jay Blumenfield on guitar and Tommy Vinton on drums, original bassist Sandy Smallens was replaced at one point by the band’s producer William Wittman (who also plays with Cyndi Lauper), but now the two both trade off on bass and second guitar. You can hear their fun corporate spirit come to life on tracks like “Minister of Loneliness,” their credo statement “Normal Never Was,” and solid rockers like “I Met a Ghost” and “Mercy Mild.”

Now, you’d think someone who’d once was detained by the Secret Service for adlibbing a joke about wanting to strangle President Clinton while performing the band’s cover of LL Cool J’s “That’s a Lie” when the spotted Chelsea Clinton and her security entourage in the audience, would know better than to begin the song “The Call of the Void,” with the words “I wanna kill myself.” But Quirk’s song is about the attraction many feel when looking from heights that they could jump, the self-destructive inclination that draws some into the abyss even if, when push comes to shove, “we don’t wanna die, but that feeling is real.”

When I saw the title to “Walken Dancing” my first guess was that it was a take on that Fatboy Slim video of “Weapon of Choice” with actor Christopher Walken dancing his ass off, but it’s actually a bit of an Irish droning chant about building middle school self-esteem. “We’re all dancing when we’re walking… our weirdos become graceful, your oddness is entrancing.” “Old Friends Make Me Sad” takes a serious look at how we tend to outgrow our younger selves and lose the deep connection we once had with people from our past, even though we rarely get as close with others in our lives. Then there’s the largely acoustic song about those “Fucking Feelings,” the regrets that keep us awake at night, and the extra cd/digital bonus track, another fun rocker that acknowledges that life for all its uncertainty and drama often can be “Slightly Beautiful.” Playful if not as outrageous or as funny as their reputation suggests, Too Much Joy have learned a lesson that comes when you mature with age, sometimes survival is the best revenge.

KEY TRACKS
“Fortune Telling’s Easy” / “Old Friends Make Me Sad” / “Slightly Beautiful”

ARTISTS WITH SIMILAR FIRE
Material Issue / The Replacements / The Fresh Young Fellows

TOO MUCH JOY REVIEW HISTORY
Mistakes Were Made (2021)

TOO MUCH JOY LINKS
Official Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | Propeller Sound Recordings

Brian Q. Newcomb
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