The Menzingers
Hello Exile


4.0
excellent

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
October 6th, 2019 | 243 replies


Release Date: 10/04/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sometimes, life works out well. For everyone else, there's "revisionist history."

In a fit of premature triumphalism in the early ‘90s, Francis Fukuyama wrote about the so-called “end of history” and victory of liberal democracy, an understandable claim for a Reagan adviser to make but a myopic one for any self-respecting scholar. Almost three decades later, Greg Barnett is singing about being “on the lonely end of history,” deriding the “crime scene of new penthouses next to tents in the streets,” the most enduring image of the neoliberal economics championed by people like Fukuyama. The Menzingers have always written rock songs about emptiness that nonetheless feel pregnant with deeper meaning. Hello Exile is an even more obvious turn toward a materialist form of songwriting that grounds the depressing realities of everyday life within a wider historical context.

That is not to say that The Menzingers are suddenly writing missives about redistributive policies, but you could see it even a decade ago in the title of their album Chamberlain Waits, conjuring a Pennsylvania arms manufacturing plant patiently waiting to devour an increasingly complacent youth that has given up idealism for the necessity of stable work. As “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)” shows, that tradeoff is the expected endpoint of youth. You might be against the factory, but you’ll work there because there’s no other choice. And when your life falls apart around you, when you “can’t stop drinking,” like Barnett, you’ll think the problem is within yourself rather than being a symptom of larger systemic ills.

You can even hear it in Will Yip’s oft-derided production choices. Greg and Tom sometimes sound like they’re singing in one room while the band plays in another. In “Strawberry Mansion”, there is even a corny effects moment where Yip cranks the volume knob on Tom’s voice in the bridge, as if he decided to join them halfway through the song. These choices are strange, but the sonic alienation underpins the literal and metaphorical barriers in the lyrics, especially Barnett’s. He’s still sleeping on the couch, wondering why his girlfriend doesn’t leave him for someone more fitting. Yet, deep down, he knows the answer: she feels the same emptiness that he does, only it manifests in a different way. In the end, they’ll “leave it broke.”

Hello Exile is full of idealized versions of Menzingers songs, a little slower than usual but still containing all the sonic and lyrical hallmarks that we’ve come to expect. “I was getting fucked up with a high school friend, wondering where all the good times went,” would be a perfect encapsulation of the band’s career if not for “Farewell Youth”, the ultimate idealized Menzingers song. “I’m afraid I hardly got to know you,” Barnett laments to the youth he’s been endlessly singing about for over a decade, turning the disheartening goodbye into a rousing chant. Growing up means living a life full of contradictions, which is why he can advise us to not “let the overwhelming sorrow shred all hopes of tomorrow” in one song, then turn around and sing that “tomorrow is out of luck” in another. On any given day, it is up to us to decide which is false and which is true.



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user ratings (151)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2019


978 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

btw fukuyama is "woke" now



^ that is clickable

butt.
October 6th 2019


5157 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review. some of it went over my head but ayyy respek. really liking the record, it's growing as I expected. I Can't Stop Drinking is currently my favorite.

deathofasalesman
October 6th 2019


6334 Comments


that's a goddamn motherfucking review right there

JayEnder
October 6th 2019


5480 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Awesome review chan! This album is a great follow up to After the Party. Quite the grower.

The title track might have become my new favorite. The mid tempo songs work so well in context of the album.



Digging: Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race

dmathias52
October 6th 2019


948 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Beautiful, beautiful review. After getting over the initial disappointment of this not quite rocking as much as I hoped, the commentary on the American Dream really hit me. Still not my favorite of theirs, but I think I can appreciate it in a different way

Digging: Bayside - Interrobang

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 6th 2019


32423 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Insightful review. This is less consistent than After the Party but has 3 songs that I prefer to any on that album - America, Anna, and Farewell Youth.

Digging: Jimmy Eat World - Surviving

TheSupernatural
October 6th 2019


2029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, sums up how I feel now after a couple listens. Somehow I didn't know the meaning behind Chamberlain Waits but that makes sense. No one does the disillusionment of the American dream better than these guys.



The back half is still better than the first half though. Strawberry Mansions is the only Tom song that I really like, and several of the midtempo songs sound indistinct. I still hate the vocal production but it's better after multiple listens at least.



I can't wait to see them in Philly next month. At the very least, these songs are probably going to sound incredible live.

TheSupernatural
October 6th 2019


2029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sowing, you mean to tell me you like America more than ATP's title track? But but but...

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2019


3162 Comments


Was looking forward to reading this and talking about it. Excellent review as always.

You are a bit more polite about 'the Will Yip effect' than I am. Otherwise, my only criticisms about the record are based on my personal preferences and not anything overly objective. I don't think they can write a slow song at all (After the Party doesn't have a single bad track on it, but I skip "Black Mass" every time). Maybe that's the point, though, especially given the socio-political undercurrent running throughout the record -- maybe there isn't supposed to be a redemptive arc at all in "I Can't Stop Drinking". We all know someone who'd rather trudge through interpersonal hell and stay in a toxic or dead-end relationship (the line about the tools in the shed and its follow-up) than do something about it out of fear of the unknown. That said, it's an interesting wrinkle to write about consequences that stay with you after your 20s are over, ha.

They picked superb singles, though, but I do like "Strain Your Memory" and "Farewell Youth" quite a bit.

A bit surprised that the Greg/Tom split wasn't as equitable this time out, but I was impressed with Greg's vocal performance at the Paste acoustic show (given that he could hardly keep tune during the ATP tour).

Still need to listen a few more times before settling on where I rank this in their discography, but kudos once more for the review -- your writing encapsulated everything incredibly well.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
October 6th 2019


8127 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Interesting and thoughtful take and super killer review

Digging: Cursive - Get Fixed

Pikazilla
October 6th 2019


4956 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hated OTIP and ATP, but this was passable I guess.



#deathtosadboipoppunk

SlothcoreSam
October 6th 2019


981 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Great review, and great album. But still can't get past the vocal production being stuck at the bottom of a well.

Digging: The Dead Love - The Extinction of Unicorns

stasar
October 6th 2019


121 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

After ATP, clear downgrade. Some really good individual tracks, but I kind of think most of them are b-sides from previous efforts.

Digging: Capstan - Restless Heart, Keep Running

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2019


978 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Appreciate your comments as always, Jom, but black mass is one of my favorite menzingers songs lol





Slex
Contributing Reviewer
October 6th 2019


8127 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

100% agree w Chan about Black Mass yeah

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 7th 2019


3162 Comments


Maybe I just don't have the ear for Will Yip-engineered albums (which might explain why I am not as bullish on Panorama as everybody else), haha.

I think "Lookers" would be up there for best Menzingers song if they cut out that "hellooooooo I'm at the bottom of a wellllllllllllll, lost-in a-picture frameeeeeeeee, thewayourbodiesusedto behaaaaaaaveeeeeeeee" intro and went right into the high-hat crashes. Oh, well!

Sunnyvale
October 7th 2019


1184 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, still not sure how I feel about the album

onionbubs
October 7th 2019


11943 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

really good review. been looping this constantly since its release and its grown tremendously across that time. strain your memory is one of their best ever

Digging: The Menzingers - Hello Exile

iswimfast
October 7th 2019


1488 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

black mass and lookers are both top tier



record is pretty cool i think it'll grow, ace review as always.

LotionLord
October 7th 2019


70 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Black Mass is one of the best Menzingers songs, and the intro to Lookers is the best part of the song.



Album's definitely solid, still not sure about a rating. Probably 3.5/4. High School Friend is the best track here.



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