Two years ago, The Menzingers released a record about coping with the loss of one’s twenties. The party ends, and so what comes next? It hit like a punch to the gut immediately. It didn’t hurt that it was the same year I was leaving my twenties behind, but even putting that bias aside, it was a damn fine record that landed a spot as my #1 in 2017. Sifting through reviews, you’ll see a lot of commentary on After the Party being the growing up record, and this week’s Hello Exile being the one that’s all grown up. The commentary might be a bit played out at this point, but it is that way for a reason: it’s true. Luckily for us, The Menzingers make being grown-up sound just as fun as growing up.
There is something about this band that makes you long for simpler times. It’s their finest quality: crafting nostalgia out of moments you didn’t even experience first-hand. And there’s something bittersweet about that. “We’re older now, farewell youth, I’m afraid I hardly got to know you,” they sing on the heartfelt closing track, and it’s a sentiment I’ve felt for years but could never articulate in such a way. It sounds so simple. And yet, it takes the right set of words sung in just the right melody over just the right set of chords to do it justice. Maybe it’s a skill set that becomes more developed with age, like a fine wine. Or maybe it’s a top-secret setting on an effects pedal they conjured while “getting fucked up with a high school friend”. Regardless, it’s a quality portrayed by a band at the absolute top of their game.
The Philadelphia quartet typically gets lumped in with the pop-punk scene, and while that’s not totally off base, they’re really a pop-punk band in the same way that The Gaslight Anthem is a pop-punk band. Really, they have just as much in common with say, Springsteen, as they do with their pop-punk contemporaries.
The fact that they can blur two lines like this so effortlessly is a testament to the band’s chemistry, and to their understanding that the true star of their show isn’t any single member or instrument – it’s the stories themselves. Just like After the Party took us inside a storybook of personal, often rebellious memories that may have been wished away too quickly, Hello Exile takes us on a similar trip but this time looking outward.
The band reflects less on their own internal crises and more on their place within a world that’s getting harder and harder to recognise. The album opener plainly states: “America, I love ya, but you’re freaking me out” and I can think of no truer sentiment in this day and age. Despite the material being a tad darker this time around, the songs are still a fucking blast, and you’ll have quite a hard time not singing along to every chorus.
There are very few modern records out there that could be considered perfect, but Hello Exile is certainly heading that way. The party ain’t everything after all.
Haiku Review With Hello Exile, The Menzingers are grown-up, And perfectly so.