Review Summary: The Menzingers score a 10/12 as far as the track-by-track goes. "Chamberlain Waits" is so perfect, though, it beckons to be scrutinized under the strictest of means possible. It is on a different level.
Blink-182 (yes, this is a review of The Menzingers) were the first band I had ever trusted. Developing trust in a band is a very joyful moment in one's life. And by trust, I mean there are just some bands, where no matter what they do, you just know you will almost unfallibly not only like it, but fall in love with it. Whether it be the vocal style, the energy, or simply the consistency, everyone has a band they believe "can do no wrong". With "Chamberlain Waits", the first music from the PA-based crew I had delved deeply into, The Menzingers had won me over, earned my trust, and made me re-evaluate my musical leanings, all in an easily digestible punk rock work of beauty.
There is nothing 'special' about "Chamberlain Waits". There are no two minute intros, or instrumental tracks, nor pretentious recurring elements, or even an overarching theme (not that that's a bad thing), just 12 tracks, ranging from solid to mind-numbing. Numbing the mind is a difficult task to achieve, especially with straightforward punk rock. "Chamberlain" doesn't achieve this through twisting your mind, leaving you somewhat confused until a moment of epiphany. This album does not grow on you. It sticks with you. The first listen is the same as the last. Both leaving me speechless.
As I said, "Chamberlain Waits" does not try to wow you with it's clever track placement or names, or anything of that nature. There doesn't even seem to be a reason for the track order, other than the title track capping it off. There is no slow-building instrumental opener, nor even an extended intro in the opening track. "Who's Your Partner?" gets right down to business, with a driving guitar strum. Although "Who's Your Partner?" does fall into the 'solid' category, I appreciate the lack of extravagance in the opening track.
"I Was Born" accurately, and strongly demonstrates one of The Menzingers strongest traits, showing just how easy it is to enjoy their brand of joyful, youthful punk. The Menzingers are catchy. And by catchy, I mean mononucleosis 'be wary' catchy. It's bad. The Menzingers have a knack for falling into these beautifully catchy choruses, but never driving them into the ground. If I were forced to pick an example (I kid, this is the perfect example), "So It Goes" has a wonderfully catchy section, and yet this chorus only plays twice. It is one of those things where you really wish it appeared in the song just one more time. Maybe it is the lack thereof that makes it so mouthwatering, albeit. It's decisions like these where I begin to 'trust' The Menzingers more than myself.
"Home Outgrown" and "Deep Sleep' certainly show how singers, Tom May and Greg Barnett, have certain vocal tendencies that can turn a perfectly average song into one that will probably be your favorite off the album for a period of time. "Home Outgrown" is almost on the verge of experimental, at least by The Menzingers' standards. "Deep Sleep" is a little more cookie-cutter in it's structure, being as close to a 'low point' as Chamberlain really gets, along with the oddly penultimate "Come Here Often?"
'Track 5'............'Chamberlain Waits'............These phrases echo around my head. They instill a very "Oh ***, hold on!" sort of feeling, often accompanied by a building drum roll, increasing your heartbeat. Track 5, "Time Tables" is just like a roller coaster. The slow click up the hill, the track changes from 4 to 5, and the rest is history. It is very difficult for myself to say that something is my "favorite of all time" without seizing, but I can safely say that Time Tables is one of my favorite tracks of all time without vomiting profusely. That is saying more than you could even imagine. From the beautifully thrashed punk vocals, to the gigantic chorus capping it off, this is catchy, people. It's really hard to say this without sounding like that guy who, amidst a reasonably loud house party, attempts to show you "this one rad song" through his broken iPhone speakers, but this song has possibly the greatest verses to ever grace the punk world. While listening to them, in your head you'll say ".....Yeah, this is pretty damn good." "***...." "Holy ***......." "Holy ***ing ***!" Greg's singing in the verses escalate so perfectly. They keep raising the bar into places you didn't even know existed, just in one thirty second verse, twenty goddamn second into the song. I could double the size of this review by giving "Time Tables" the attention it deserves, but it'd be faster, more efficient, and simply better for you to just listen to the song. Trust me on this. Even if on nothing else, trust me on at least this. "Male Call", the song on every punk album, where the rhythm section is pulled, and the tenderness is poured in, is nothing special. But, in unexpected Menzingers fashion, they make "nothing special" as good as it gets.
I picture the second half of "Chamberlain Waits" very oddly. I see "Tasker-Morris Station", a perfectly adequate Menzingers tune that you'll be humming alonglike the rest, kind of in it's own little corner. I think it's mostly because I have the following 5 tracks, and their respective successes, weirdly mapped out in my head. I see 3 very strong tracks evenly separated by two solid tracks. "So It Goes", featuring vocals from the TLA's Brendan Kelly, perfects the 'gang-vocal chorus'. With the strongest chorus in The Menzingers playbook, I'm sure this track joyfully frustrated punk rock musicians everywhere, with the "Why didn't I think of that?" feeling. "No We Didn't" is very distinctive in it's beat. The drums pound heavily; this is a song where only the energy levels distinguish the verses and choruses. In "Rivalries", the guitars take classic rock riffs, and give them a direct injection of pure energy, something I hadn't even known they sorely lacked. This classic rock aura comes up again on the title track.
Nearing the end of this loose bunch of tracks is "Come Here Often?", a very good, upbeat, driving song, which unfortunately suffers greatly from being forgettable. The album does end on a strong note, though. 'Chamberlain Waits' has a very chanted chorus, and general feeling. Although, this chanting is very laid back, slower, and more drawn out, which is completely welcome at this point in the album, and a breath of fresh air. The Menzingers know what they're doing, that's for sure.
2010's "Chamberlain Waits" is a work of art, by my understanding of art, and is something I hope will stand the test of time. Similar to the great paintings of history, this collection of songs is something I want this era to be proud of producing, in the greater scheme of history.