The Punk Rock Kings Of Philly
I'm not very adventurous when it comes to new music. I'm usually pretty set in my ways; listening to the same artists, the same playlists & the same songs. However every now and then, one of those artists will lead me to discover a new one. And that's exactly what happened a couple of years back.
It all started with Springsteen.
My obsession with The Boss that has lasted for most of my adult life, steered me in the direction of exploring Springsteen's New Jersey routes. This led me to The Gaslight Anthem and they, in turn, led me to guys like Dave Hause and Chuck Ragan. Spending most of my time listening to these guys, who still remain a staple of my everyday listening, Spotify would start suggesting new bands to me such as The Bouncing Souls, Against Me! and The Menzingers. Now, while I'd heard of The Menzingers before, I'd never actually listened to them. So after a quick listen of their most popular tracks on Spotify, I sat up, and slowly began to take notice of this band. Before long, I'd listened to everything that was available on Spotify - but what really grabbed my attention was 2012's On The Impossible Past.
On The Impossible Past
The Menzingers 3rd studio album, On The Impossible Past, is where this band really got their hooks in me. Now, I came to this album four years late, so I'm not really sure what kind of hype there was surrounding it at the time. But for me, it's hard to imagine that it didn't blow everyone away on release, because I think if I were to create a list of my favourite albums of all time, this would easily be in the top five, probably even my top three.
The album opens so strongly with three catchy, high energy tracks in Good Things, Burn After Writing and singalong anthem The Obituaries before slowing things right down with Gates - four tracks that really set the bar for the quality of this record. The real high points of the album for me are the tracks Mexican Guitars & Casey, which are still two of my most favourite Menzingers songs to date. Mexican Guitars is a nostalgia-heavy song that seems to deal with the loss of an old friend, and looking back to better times when they were learning guitar on their Mexican Stratocaster's together:
"I'm on cruise control and the radio was on
They were playing that song
That we both learned on our Mexican guitars"
This song instantly hooked me - the passion in Greg Barnett's voice was so clear on the first listen, that I knew this was going to be a favourite. Similar can be said for Casey - another track that seems to deal with nostalgic memories of an old friend:
"Me and Casey
We used to get drunk before we did the dishes
Oh, every evening
Me and Casey
Used to get high and listen to our boredom"
Again, Greg's vocal delivery is so powerful and combined with the catchy lyrics - Casey became an instant favourite for me. These are then followed up by I Can't Seem To Tell, and Freedom Bridge - two tracks that round the record off perfectly.
For me, this is the perfect punk rock album; the ultimate mash-up of energetic, aggressive pure punk & singalong, hooky melodies full of raw emotion. It is easy to see why this is one of the most critically acclaimed punk albums of all time.
The follow up to On The Impossible Past, Rented World, doesn't quite hit the same heights of its predecessor for me. It was always going to be a huge task for The Menzingers to deliver a follow-up record of such high quality - but don't get me wrong, it does have its moments. The opening track I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore, which is my favourite track on the album, is absolutely incredible. It's an extremely dark & powerful opening track, and the emotion in Barnett's voice is there for all to see:
"I won't lie no more about where I've been
And I won't pry no more
Over the people that you're hanging with
You're the only lover that I ever missed
Ever been hopelessly in love with
Look at this tangle of thorns
I don't wanna be an asshole anymore"
The album hits a few other highs with tracks such Rodent, Where Your Heartache Exists, The Talk & Hearts Unknown - all of which wouldn't look out of place on On The Impossible Past. Whilst Rented World doesn't quite hit the heights of its predecessor it is still a pretty damn good record overall.
Lookers & After The Party
Lookers is still a mainstay of my everyday listening and has a place in several of my Spotify playlists. And despite On The Impossible Past being my favourite Menzingers record overall, I think Lookers is my favourite track. Check out the video for it below.
With the release of Lookers came the promise of a new album, and that's exactly what came next. On October 27, 2016, The Menzingers announced their fifth studio album, titled After The Party would be released on February 3, 2017.
Now, if On The Impossible Past was nostalgia-heavy, then After The Party takes it up a notch. The incredible opening track Tellin' Lies sets the tone for the album as a whole, repeatedly asking the question "Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?" The first five tracks on this record make for really strong listening with the incredible Lookers, along with Midwestern States and Charlie's Army being particular highlights.
This continues with House On Fire, Boy Blue and Bad Catholics but things really step up again with the tenth track, Your Wild Years.
The second last song on the album is the title track, After The Party, a track that just about pips Lookers to my favourite overall Menzingers track. After The Party works as a follow up to the record's opening track, Tellin' Lies and tells the story of a couple who are struggling to figure out where to go after their college years. But despite the troubles the face, when the partying is done, and it's time to grow up - they stick together.
"Everybody wants to get famous
But you just want to dance in a basement
You don't care if anyone is watching
Just as long as you stay in motion
We put miles on these old jean jackets
Got caught up in the drunk conversations
But after the party, it's me and you
After the party, it's me and you"
It's hard to listen to this song and not get drawn into it. I used to think that Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem) was my favourite vocalist out there but the sheer amount of pure, raw, emotion that Greg Barnett can get across in his vocal delivery is incredible. Just as I do with Your Wild Years, I get chills every time I listen to this track. It even has an awesome video - check it out below.
For me the album is a real return to form for The Menzingers and the heights of On The Impossible Past - it's a sort of spiritual sequel to it with a return of the nostalgia-heavy hooky melodies and catchy singalong lyrics. And whilst After The Party may not be as strong overall as On The Impossible Past, it is a record that would easily have a spot in my top ten list.
I think it's clear from this that I'm a sucker for nostalgia, and it's true; I love old movies, I love old video games and I love old music, so naturally, I was going to connect with a bunch of these songs on some level. I think it speaks volumes, that for a band that I'd only discovered a few years ago - two of their albums would make my top ten of all time list. If you want to hear for yourself just why I love The Menzingers so much, then check out my Menzingers playlist on Spotify.
I can't wait to see what they do next ?