When you already have an undeniably impressive backlog of releases, it must be a real task to create a piece of work to success those albums. However, Pennsylvania four-piece The Menzingers have yet again proven that they’re a force to be reckoned with, cementing their place at the top of the punk rock pile. Despite Hello Exile being set for a fall after the huge success of After The Party, it has blown all expectations. Even with such a surprisingly strong melancholic tone running throughout, all of their squeaky-clean attributes are as strong and as polished as ever.
We’re welcomed into the release in true Menzinger style; political statement 'America (You’re Freaking Me Out)' proves these guys are still capable of keeping their genre alive, incorporating the perfect concoction of up-tempo melodies and sing along lyrics.
However, this feel-good message is quickly shed, with the majority of this release feeling irrefutably melancholic. 'Anna' is an emotional ode to a previous lover, whilst 'Strain Your Memory' is a nostalgic passage into happier memories.
It’s almost as if we’ve seen the band’s descent into adulthood; from the bouncy, youthful riffs and upbeat tempos on After The Party, to the mournful and hard-hitting themes found on this release. 'High School Friend' epitomises this feeling; growing up is inevitable. Despite this dejected lyricism, at no point does this release lose its sense of energy. Huge choruses and punk rock singalongs are flawlessly intertwined with sorrowful realisations, proving that adulthood is rough.
Whilst there’s such an obvious lack of optimism found here, the level of lyricism is endlessly impressive. 'London Drugs' and 'Strawberry Mansion' showcase the progression in lyrical maturity, whilst still providing a youthful tone that we’re so fond of. 'I Can’t Stop Drinking' highlights the eye-opening understanding of adult life, with talks of loneliness and addiction complimenting the raw and hard-hitting theme throughout this release.
Every detail of this release works perfectly together. Their ability to offer such a personal yet punchy story that holds so much powerful relatability is applaudable. However, the interweaving between vocalists Tom May & Greg Barnett is a clear highlight. Barnett’s rough and ready edge, paired with the vulnerability of May works better than ever before, further emphasising the new-found maturity in their work. These guys sure are experts at storytelling, painting vivid pictures in our minds, from overwhelming pain to joyful nostalgia. Album finale 'Farewell Youth' could not have put it any better; an ode to better days that will resonate the masses.
Making this genre consistently relevant is a task in itself, but these guys have proven that it’s still as vital as ever. This release is incomparable to After The Party; a cousin or sibling, perhaps, as opposed to a successor. Their differences should never be a disadvantage – the overwhelmingly overcast tone offers a stray from the punk-rock template that we’re familiar with. However, when juxtaposed with their exuberant melodies and riffs makes for a sound that we didn’t know we needed until now. The Menzingers have yet again proven that their potential is limitless.
Hello Exile Is Released October 4th Via Epitaph