Fuelled by highly personal and emotional storytelling, The Menzingers take a darker turn with sixth album, Hello Exile
Following up a successful record is a tricky task for any band. For The Menzingers however, it’s fair to say this task was a little bigger than usual. In 2017, the Philadelphia quartet released After The Party; an energetic, heartfelt rollercoaster of nostalgia that was widely praised as not only one of the best albums of the year, but as a genuine diamond in modern punk rock. Singer and guitarist Greg Barnett claimed himself that After The Party was a huge success for the band and it settled any nerves of making music not being sustainable for the future. Now two years later, with much anticipation, the band have presented their sixth album and our next dose of gritty, sincere songwriting in the form of Hello Exile.
Straight from the outset, we’re subjected to perhaps a more serious tone, lyrically at least, from The Menzingers than which we’re used to with America (You’re Freaking Me Out). With politically charged lyrics such as ‘what kinds of monsters did our parents vote for?’ crossed with the bouncing drums and driving guitars, the album gets off to a strong start before the album’s lead single Anna instantly follows. I can’t help but reference this YouTube comment I saw when talking about this track; ‘The Menzingers have a way of making me feel nostalgic for relationships I haven’t even been in’. This is exactly what makes the band so special; when you hear the gruff, profound vocals of Greg Barnett singing about past events, you almost believe that you lived those exact stories. Only a handful of bands can really make you feel this way. Anna is no different, and the feeling of missing a loved one is expressed expertly, in true Menzingers fashion.
High School Friend draws on the emotional connections with friends that you grow up with, laced with an inescapable undertone that things were a lot better back then. Whilst previous albums by The Menzingers have had a more of an even balance in terms of songs sung by Greg Barnett and Tom May, Hello Exile undoubtedly focuses more on Barnett as the primary singer. Despite this, May still leads on Last To Know, Portland and the climate change themed Strawberry Mansion, all of which are strong songs and add a good variety within the album as a whole. Strangers Forever is another standout track, tackling another relatable concept in quintessential Menzingers style. The title track Hello Exile encapsulates the whole ambience of the album in a slower-paced style, incorporating the heavier tone of the album as Barnett sings about how ‘life was perfect if just for a little while’. The brutally honest I Can’t Stop Drinking is a song the band have been working on for a couple of years and adds alcoholism to the list of bleaker topics explored, whilst Farewell Youth closes the album in a powerful, albeit slightly cliché manner.
Sonically, this album doesn’t stray too far from the classic sound of the band, which is not a bad thing at all. At this point, The Menzingers have their musical formula down to a fine art and it still works extremely well. Some of the drumming patterns and chord progressions do seem slightly repetitive at points, but the simple sounds still manage to provide the canvas for the masterful lyricism.
The Menzingers have been one of the most consistent bands in the last few years and their hot streak certainly continues with Hello Exile. Filled with highly personal and emotional storytelling, the darker sixth album certainly indicates that the spark that makes this band so special shows no sign of fading anytime soon.
Listen to Hello Exile here.