Review Summary: "when you get old enough to know that happiness is just a moment"
Punk has lost its fire with time. Bands like Propagandhi try to be uncompromising and political, and as successful as they are, they are one of very few. Punk bands used to be incendiary. They used to kick down doors and demand attention just by the passion they carried in their power chords. As time went on, those bands gave way to bands that either tried to be goofy and silly, or they were making the lyrics more personal. For better or worse, the old guard had been replaced. It is understandable why the shift happened; you can only say so much about the same stuff before every band that comes on the scene just sounds like a copycat. The attitude prevalent in the genre had somewhat mellowed. The Menzingers are a fairly new band, having formed in 2006 as an energetic band with more than your average bite. By the time 2012 and On The Impossible Past
rolls around, however, The Menzingers are older and wearier, which has shaped them into a cohesive and refined unit.
The reason the state of punk was brought up was because almost all of On The Impossible Past
deals with living in the aftermath of those good old days. The Menzingers aren’t The Gaslight Anthem in that they are forcing references of “the Cool” down the listener’s throats; instead, they infuse their honed punk stylings with slight nostalgic flourishes. Guitar lines have an air of reminiscence, and the production goes a long way to make sure the album has a genuine feel throughout. The production cannot be complimented enough; every instrument is musically intertwined with the other in such a way that nothing is drowned out, and there is a welcome crispness to the whole affair. The two vocalists/guitarists, Greg Barnett and Tom May, carry a distinct vocal ranges, and the tracklist tends to bounce back and forth between songs dominated by each. This proves to work in their favor, as it keeps the album varied through the entire 41 minutes.
Not one moment of the album is anything less than great, with regular moments cropping up throughout that raise the album to jaw-dropping moments. Whether it is the chorus to “Casey”, the line ”And I’m pretty sure this corner of the world is the loneliest corner in the whole world”
from “Sun Hotel”, the intense ending of “Nice Things”, or the entirety of “Gates”. Both May and Barnett sing songs full of pining for days that had passed them by, previous highs that they may never reach again. Every line is delivered with such conviction, and such pain. Lines will start off seeming like simple reminiscing, then things will take a bitter and low turn when it is apparent that things got worse since the stories they are telling. They don’t beat themselves up over mistakes in the past, they simply wish that those days hadn’t ended. The underlying bitterness that spans the album enhances the music, if anything; it is almost an indictment of their whole generation for not living up to their previous plans and ideas. People grew up, became responsible, and left, so The Menzingers are the only guys left around who want to go get drunk and not think about tomorrow. It is a convincing argument, and The Menzingers succeed in making those feelings rise up, the longing for the days when nobody cared about what the future held.
The Menzingers remember their carefree days, and can’t seem to shake the expectations of their younger selves, and while doing so create an album that perfectly encapsulate the remorse and regret of not living up to it. On The Impossible Past
is a beautiful and haunting punk album that can hit someone on a number of different levels. The Menzingers know how to relate to people that all have different experiences and lifestyles, while also tapping into all their fears that come with getting older and letting things pass you by. They want to know they aren’t alone in their regrets, most of the songs feel like they were written to a specific person, there are a lot of personal references and questions of ”do you remember"”
. In being so personal, The Menzingers tap into similar moments in other’s lives, and the songs act as catharsis through shared pain.