Band: The Menzingers
Release: Hello Exile
Area: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date Of Release: October 4th 2019
Genre: Punk Rock
Record Label: Epitaph
Producer: Will Yip
For Fans Of: Against Me!, Madam Wong, The Gaslight Anthem, The Wonder Years, Almost any punk band with lyrics you wanna scream in your kitchen with your partner while cooking a classy meal of meat and probably only 2 veg because the carrots have started growing hair.
“On the lonely end of history” sings Greg Barnett – singer/guitarist of Philadelphia punk rock outfit, The Menzingers – on the opening track from their new full-length, and it sets the scene for the next 40 minutes of storytelling perfection.
"Hello Exile" is the follow-up to 2017’s critically acclaimed "After the Party", which was the follow-up to 2014’s critically acclaimed "Rented World", which was the follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed "On The Impossible Past"… I could go on.
Bottom line is, these guys just keep producing absolute corkers. Let me tell you, "Hello Exile" is just another in a long line of records which will stand the test of time.
Both the first two tracks off the album, 'America (You’re Freaking Me Out)' and 'Anna', were released as singles prior to the album being released, it offered an insight into what we could expect from the record. Both were instant classics, with 'America (You’re Freaking Me Out), ensuring you brought your dancing shoes, and Anna making absolutely certain you brought your best singing (in my case, yelling at the top of my lungs) voice.
You would be forgiven for thinking that that would be the highlight of this album. They are both timeless songs, and it’s not uncommon, after all, for bands to release the best tracks from upcoming albums as singles beforehand, in an attempt to build hype.
Do The Menzingers need to do so though?
They do not.
The third track from the album, 'High School Friend', picks up right where the first two left off, with catchy, bluesy-nuanced, guitar licks, leading into the kind of lyrics only these guys can coalesce into an harmonic novel.
There is no letting up, with the middle of the record continuing on the same theme, in almost Seinfeld-esque nature, about, well, nothing. Just life, and everyday events that we can all relate to – relationship strains, getting older than we really want to, and the inevitable dig at the state of current politics, buried in subtle references, profound undertones, or slap-in-your-face obviousness.
'Strangers Forever' and 'Portland' act as grounding tracks, with punchy bass-lines and perfectly scaled guitar riffs, between slower, emotionally distinct fables that seem more suited to a Robert W. Service poem than a punk album on historically fast label, Epitaph.
In actuality, the album is almost flawless. Each song leads into the next, like Pokemon led into Dragon Ball Z, or eating one salt ‘n’ vinegar chip leads to another salt ‘n’ vinegar chip.
As I listen through the album, I honestly believe that the next song just has to be less brilliant than the last. But it isn’t. It’s equally as brilliant. The country-influenced 'I Can’t Stop Drinking' ends, and I think things have to go downhill, and then one of the true highlights from the record, 'Strawberry Mansion', kicks off with harmonic-fuelled nostalgia and probably the best drum track on the album.
But then the final two tracks just don’t let up.
I’m in awe.
When I first listened to 'Anna' and 'America (You’re Freaking Me Out)', I must admit, I was concerned by the almost over-produced vocal recording tracks. On both tracks I actually really liked the vocals, but I was a little apprehensive about an entire album of it. Boy was I wrong! It isn’t a problem. It’s a solution.
Not a solution to a problem, per se. But a solution to a concept – the idea that a band can’t stay relevant by continuing to do the same thing each record.
The Menzingers are as relevant as ever on "Hello Exile". More so, probably, and the slight shift in production on vocals, and clean guitar/basic drum beat, link is the perfect base for narrative.
'Farewell Youth' closes the album with a tale of reminiscence and regret. It brings together all the stories we have heard, with an almost elemental realness. We all grow up. We all regret the times that aren’t our fondest. But now that they are gone, we can just sit back and say “farewell youth. I’m afraid I hardly got to know you”.
One thing that people will be getting to know, however, is "Hello Exile", because this album is an absolute ripper, combining instantly appealing musicianship with the nostalgic recital of times gone by, for better or worse.
I know I will be getting to know "Hello Exile" well.
- Hello Exile Track List -
1. America (You’re Freaking Me Out) 2. Anna 3. High School Friend 4. Last to Know 5. Strangers Forever 6. Hello Exile 7. Portland 8. Strain Your Memory 9. I Can’t Stop Drinking 10. Strawberry Mansion 11. London Drugs 12. Farewell Youth
Would You Go And See Them (WYGAST): 5/5
Personal Enjoyment: 9.8/10