By Andrew Willoughby
In 2012, The Menzingers released “On the Impossible Past,” an infectious punk rock album that was a breath of fresh air for the genre. The band’s 2014 follow up, “Rented World,” had a similar sound, but it was a bit of a letdown for diehard fans when it came to creating truly memorable songs.
The Menzingers’ fifth record, “After the Party,” does everything right that “Rented World” did wrong.
“On the Impossible Past” was a record that – hence the name – primarily focused on the past. But the aging punks seem to have finally realized they’re not getting any younger on “After the Party,” although they do occasionally take breaks to reminisce on tracks such as “Lookers.”
The record opens with “Tellin’ Lies,” an energetic ballad which repeats the mantra “Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?” The Menzingers took the chance to show their more mature side with this record and it pays off.
While many punk bands write songs about how growing up sucks, The Menzingers already have grown up. “After The Party” tackles themes of problem landlords, religion and of course rock n’ roll.
Most of the songs on “After the Party” are punk ballads with hard-hitting and catchy riffs on top of simple bass grooves. Admittedly, the instrumentation is not the main attraction on any Menzingers album. But that doesn’t mean these guys don’t have talent – there are quite a few guitar riffs here that are just as catchy as the vocal melodies. The intro to “Charlie’s Army” and the ending of “House on Fire” are standout examples.
The Menzingers know how to write a memorable hook. Even after my first listen, I couldn’t help but sing along to “House on Fire” and “Thick as Thieves.” That’s not to say that these are the only catchy songs. Every single track on this record has a memorable chorus, something that was missing on their previous release. The Menzingers are the type of band that’s best when belted along with in the car.
Yes, many Menzingers songs are often predictable. They rarely break from the verse-chorus-verse formula and don’t stray far from their established sound on this record. But the well-written lyrics and infectious hooks make up for that.
The closing track, “Livin’ Ain’t Easy,” is the biggest departure from their usual sound. The reverb-drenched guitars sound as if they’d be more at home on a Pixies record. But the vocal melody sounds as if it was ripped straight from “Sun Hotel,” a song off “On the Impossible Past.” Luckily, this is the only point on the album where it feels as if I’m listening to something I’ve already heard from the band.
“After the Party” was produced in Philadelphia by Will Yip. Yip has worked with everyone from Arctic Monkeys to The Wonder Years. Every one of his recordings sounds great and this record is no exception. The vocals are front and center, the guitars blast and you can feel every drum hit. The biggest issue is, at times, it’s hard to make out the bass, although that hardly ruins the record.
“After the Party” is a fantastic return to form for The Menzingers. It’s not often that a band releases a record without one forgettable song. This is definitely one of the first must-listen punk records of 2017.