As I grow older I find myself getting more and more frustrated with coming of age tales. I get the premise – the young protagonist experiences some sort of struggle which introduces profound tension into their previous comfortable existence. Somehow (often with a band of colorful supporting characters) they find resolution in a way which alters their perspective and prepares them for the blissful remainders of their lives. But that’s my main grievance: happily ever after is always implied. To jaded millennial suburbanites like myself, this is where coming of age tales lose their relevance: it turns out love and stability were empty promises to our generation. So who will rise up and compose the anthems of our discontent? Enter The Menzingers.
To be fair, The Menzingers have been singing about how much life sucks for a while. Their seminal album “On the Impossible Past” opens with the line, “I’ve been having a horrible time.” It’s encouraging to see that their newest album, “After the Party” similarly opens with Greg Barnett screeching “Oh ya, oh ya, everything is terrible.” Playing the beautiful loser can be a dangerous game, but Barnett, May, and Co. seem just as genuine as when they were watching good things fall apart. Growing older hasn’t slowed them down, and they’re just as energetic as ever singing about fruitless educational pursuits, drunken youth exploits with close companions, and the ever frustrating pursuit of stability and security.
Sonically, “After the Party” is by far their most aerodynamic album, the product of slowly polishing their sound over the past several years. Their blend of rough, old school punk stylings (a la Against Me, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, etc) with the catchiness of 90’s radio pop rock (a la Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind) is intoxicating. However, authenticity is not sacrificed for accessibility, and while listeners will get reeled in by the hooks, they’ll stay for the vivid and compelling stories of the lost generation.
This is what makes The Menzingers such an important band in our current musical landscape: their dedication to telling real stories and their focus on the relationships at the center of them. Every song recounting failures and feelings of falling short is uplifted by the mention of the friend at their side. It’s never more beautifully and chillingly conveyed than in the chorus of the title track: “After the party it’s me and you.” That’s enough of a reminder of the true and essential necessities in life to give this despondent millennial hope.
Label: Epitaph Records
Release Date: February 8th, 2017