Review Summary: So you just turned 30, now what?
The Menzingers have always had pretty melancholy lyrics, but man, Rented World
was bleak. The Pennsylvanian punk quintet were staring down the barrel of age 30, and going through some hard times personally during the writing and recording of Rented World.
These hardships inevitably seeped into the music, as it’s uncharacteristically dark, stripped back, and muffled for a band that’s previously written a lot of really fun tunes. The lyrics became less about telling stories of stumbling through adolescence, and more about expressing depressing sentiments like “nothing feels good anymore,” “never again will I let anyone close to me,” and declaring dramatically that one feels very much in common with a rodent in the wall. After releasing and touring Rented World,
the Menzingers all turned 30 and started looking inward, started feeling distant from their tales of being drunk, naive, and 22. While writing the next record, the band had to decide where to go next - to expand on the dour tone of Rented World,
or to go back to telling narratives about a time in life that keeps getting further and further away. Thankfully with After The Party,
The Menzingers figured out a way to touch on old subjects with a new light and new perspective. Going from lyrics of “this is how I feel and it sucks,” to “this is how I felt, and I got through it,” coupled with the band’s most bright and catchy music to date, After The Party
is not only the band’s strongest album lyrically, but their most upbeat, fun, and catchy record yet.
Every single song on After The Party
is a blast; the energy and passion already found in Greg Barnett and Tom May’s songwriting has hit critical fucking mass. From the catchy-as-hell vocal hooks of "Lookers" and "Charlie’s Army," to the bouncy guitars and playful lyrics of "Bad Catholics," The Menzingers have crafted a brightly produced non-stop feel-good behemoth of a record. Even the slower tracks like "Black Mass" and "Living Ain’t Easy" feel hypercharged, and the songs with more depressing lyrics like "The Bars" and the title track are juxtaposed with such peppy music that it’s impossible not to smile even if you’re crying. The return of storytelling lyrics helps every song feel like a journey, experienced through clever metaphors and a carefree attitude that makes normally crushing endeavors like “total heartbreaker Jersey girls” and one’s “unemployment drying up fast” seem like positives - character building hurdles that make one stronger and wiser. The Menzingers have always had top shelf lyrics, but the guitar playing is on another level for the band, with huge chords, and driving lead guitar riffs that help make After The Party
the most well rounded Menzingers release to date. There’s something interesting and awe inspiring happening in every single track, down to the bluesy sway of "The Bars" and the haunting soft arpeggios of the title track.
"After The Party" is the crux of the album, the emotional core of the record, and easily the best song. Greg Barnett’s portrayal of love told through pictures is evocative, stirring, and painfully relatable: “It's the little things my mind commits / To etch behind my eyelids / Like getting stoned when we wake up / Coffee grounds and coffee cups / Your silhouette in high top sneakers / And hardcore from laptop speakers / The classics to the more obscure / From Minor Threat to your old roommate's band / Like a kaleidoscope in vibrant hues / I navigate around your tattoos / Said you got that one on a whim when you were breaking up with him / And that Matryoshka Russian doll / That lines your shelf from big to small / What a way to start anew / To shed your skin and find the old you.” The whole record is strong lyrically, but "After The Party" really stands out because of its ability to evoke nostalgic emotions through intricately composed visual descriptions. Greg Barnett has always had pipes, but the inspired intensity and fervor in his voice is what makes the song truly special; I wouldn’t be surprised if After The Party goes down as the band’s signature song.
The Menzingers have done what few bands have ever accomplished - they’ve created their most radio friendly album to date without compromising what made them so special in the first place. As is to be expected from the band, much of the lyrical content is sad, but the music is delivered in such an optimistic, playful way that the overwhelming vibe of the record is positive. Unrelenting, uncompromising, and infinitely catchy, After the Party
is a statement album that proves The Menzingers are the best in the business. Forged by a band that is over age 30 and all the wiser for it, After The Party
is the light at the end of the tunnel, a hand on your shoulder that says everything is going to be OK; the party of your carefree adolescence may be over, but with the Menzingers there’s more good times than bad times ahead.