Getting Old With the Menzingers
Pennsylvania punk rockers, the Menzingers, are a well-placed stamp in the scene. Since 2006, they have been putting out critically acclaimed punk albums, such as 2012’s On The Impossible Past, which many argue is the best punk album of this decade so far.
The heart of the Menzingers lies within their lyrics. They paint beautiful pictures in all of their songs of reminiscing and relationships. These lyrics are only emphasized by the shouting of vocalists Tom May and Greg Barnett. This duo are a rare case of a two-singer band in which the vocalists, rather than outperform, complement their respective counterpart.
In After the Party, the Menzingers have taken it down a notch in their shouting. This album feels more like a universal version of the band compared to 2014’s Rented World. Usually, this is a bad thing in punk, as we saw with another Epitaph band Joyce Manor, but the Menzingers are able to make it work with their unbelievable lyrics and production.
Prior to After the Party‘s release, the Menzingers mentioned that the latter half of the writing period was done after spending time at Jersey punk gigs. Although the band is from Scranton, one could easily see the New Jersey influence on this record. First thing’s first, the album cover is from a set of photos taken by Joe Maloney from 1979-80 in Asbury Park. The Jersey aspect carries into the music as well. The album’s first single, “Lookers,” shows this in its mention of the Springsteen philosophy of Jersey girls. Julie, mentioned multiple times on After the Party, is painted inside a masterful lyric about looking back on days of youth, captured in pictures and mental imagery. Barnett looks back at his adolescence with fondness, but also melancholy for its passing. Jersey vibes continue in “Black Mass,” which follows a doo-wop melody that finishes with, “just a little, just a little bit longer,” reminiscent of “Stay,” the Maurice Williams song later made famous by NJ’s own Frankie Valli.
The album starts with “Tellin’ Lies,” which follows the most common theme in the album, growing older. “Tellin’ Lies” asks what comes after the 20-something years. It is done in a joking matter at first, but, as the song goes on and the energetic guitar slows down, the morbid reality of this “what now?” message hits. These ideas of growing up are something on which After the Party follows through in its entirety. “Bad Catholics,” one of the most fun songs on the album in pure energy, talks about a girl in the past who used to cause trouble and then, years later, began to be seen in a goody-two-shoes light. Barnett and the Menzingers have to accept that people are changing as they grow old. In “The Bars,” May asks, “What the hell am I doing? / Where have my friends gone?,” as he notices a newfound anxiety in pubs, where he cannot recognize anyone anymore. The bar closing in this song represents the youth of the Menzingers coming to an end. “The Bars” showcases the truly masterful lyricism of the group.
The highlight of the album lies within “Your Wild Years,” which epitomizes the idea of a punk rock romance. It shows a couple headed back from the Stone Pony after a show, all the way to them getting drunk with the girl’s father. Barnett carries this song with his vocals and heartfelt lyrics. Anyone who is Irish, Polish or Bostonian will be screaming along at upcoming Menzingers’ shows.
The only minor setback in the album would be “Thick as Thieves,” which follows a typical classic rock guitar pattern with a repetitive chorus that goes stale. This song is the biggest stray away from the Menzingers punk roots on this album, but one bump does not ruin the whole road.
In an album about reminiscing of youth and maturing to adulthood, the Menzingers have aged like fine wine. These guys have perfected their craft of punk music mixed with novel lyricism. For a band that shouts as hard as the Menzingers, they back it up with meaning in their music. For any true Menzingers fan, After the Party cannot possibly disappoint and is an early contender for punk album of the year.