It’s widely agreed that The Menzingers peaked on their 2012 album On the Impossible Past; We’re talking an album with 93 on Metacritic and featuring iconic tracks such as Burn After Writing, Nice Things and Casey. It was an album that became known for exhibiting the potential of loud angry punk bands slowing down just a tad to help them show off more complex songwriting skills, and in The Menzingers case, Greg Barnett and Tom May’s vocals.
They may have failed to match up to fan expectations with their 2014 album Rented World, but after taking three years off they now return with something far more refined and much closer to what was expected of a follow up to On the Impossible Past.
This fifth album, titled After the Party, feels larger and grander than its predecessor. Though not quite managing to make the impact of On the Impossible Past, the lyric complexities that made that album have returned in force. Catchy choruses are what The Menzingers have always done best and After the Party makes that known from the start. “Oh yeah everything is terrible/ when buying marijuana makes you feel like a criminal/When your new friends take a joke too literal/ Making you feel like the bad guy” announces the return of lyrics that flow like silk over gritty, fast and oh so catchy riffs. It’s a track that wouldn’t have felt entirely out of place on their debut A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology. If that’s not a punk band staying true to their roots then I don’t know what is.
As a punk band that formed in 2007 in the height of the credit crunch/ banking collapse, The Menzingers have never really had to grow out of the kind of optimistic skate punk that came before them. There’s always been a certain aspect of melancholia to their lyrics and tracks, whether that leant towards a more anarchic tone such as their debut album which struck more of a chord with bands like Against Me!, or their more bleak albums that find themselves among the likes of Joyce Manor. Rented World was criticised for moving too far into bleak territory for a band that had been writing fun upbeat songs for years. Anyone else remember Rodent‘s lyrics of “I’ve tried running/ I’ve tried hiding/ I’ve tried everything but dying” and “I have only bad news” and that was just on one track. After the Party see’s the band taking a more optimistic look at life as they look back at their years as 20-somethings. “Where we gonna go now our 20’s are over” is actually a drastically more up beat tone for the band in comparison to some of Rented World‘s lyrics.
This lets the band return to what they do best, big, loud, shouty choruses over dancey riffs, yet all the while maintaining that notion of anger at the situations both the band, and you the listener find yourself. Life does suck, that doesn’t mean you have to lie down and let life kick you while you’re there, put on some classic Menzingers like After the Party and sing until everything seems that little bit less shit. If you’re really lucky, you’ll go buy live tickets and experience some real emotional therapy…