The Menzingers have been producing unapologetic punk songs to scream to while driving around in your beat-up 2001 Honda Civic for more than a decade.
Their debut and sophomore releases A Lesson In the Abuse of Information Technology and Chamberlain Waits, respectively, held that gritty, do-it-yourself vibe that most bands signed to small independent labels such as Go-Kart Records and Red Scare Industries (like The Menzingers were at the time) possess.
2012 was the musical turning point for the Scranton, Pennsylvania based rockers, who released On the Impossible Past through Epitaph Records, which was founded by Brett Gurewitz of legendary punk band Bad Religion. On the Impossible Past saw the band take a more polished, heartland rock route, without losing that underlying punk tone that has always been their bread and butter.
When the vocals kicked in five seconds into the opening track “Good Things,” I knew this record was going to be a record that was very important to me. What I didn’t expect was that the full album would be a masterpiece from front-to-back, with understable and goosebump inducing lyrics such as “I’ve been having a horrible time pulling myself together / I’ve been closing my eyes to find why all good things should fall apart,” on the aforementioned “Good Things,” to “I want to wander around the city with you again, like when you waited tables and I waited for your shift breaks.” The album is a staple for 20-something-year-olds who are dealing with love, unforgettable days, angst and endless summer nights.
Rented World, The Menzingers’ most recent release before After the Party came out this month contained some catchy tunes, but saw the band from the Electric City unable to supersede what they had accomplished on On the Impossible Past. Regardless, it was a solid album from front to back that has aged well like a fine wine.
It’s apparent that the band has hit a bit of a dead end with their freshly-released fifth studio album After the Party. The album just doesn’t feel as complete; as their two prior releases, which were both conducive to obtaining one goal from beginning to end. After the Party seems all over the place, such as songs like “Thick as Thieves” and “House on Fire” which would have fit perfectly on Chamberlain Waits, and “Boy Blue” and “The Bars” which are reminiscent of A Lesson In The Abuse of Information Technology. The band is trying to reach back and utilize sounds from their earlier albums, or from other artists like The Gaslight Anthem and Bruce Springsteen.
The overall theme of this album is getting older and leaving your 20s, and while lyrics like “We put miles on these old jean jackets / Got caught up in the drunk conversations / But after the party, it’s me and you,” from the title track “After the Party” give you a taste of the direction the band is trying to go in. The Menzingers could benefit greatly from heading back to the drawing board and trying to grow into more of a mature outlet.
The album has some gems, such as “Lookers” and “Livin’ Ain’t Easy” which give you a fresh take on the classic Menzingers sound that make it worth the listen. While it’s not terrible, the album was a bit of a miss altogether for The Menzingers.