This is part 2 in a Series of posts about the Menzingers. Read part 1 here.
Here’s the thing, the Menzingers don’t really write songs, at least not anymore, they write anthems. Every single syllable on the Menzingers last two albums is an opportunity for the crowd to sing in unison back to the band. It was impressive that they were able to pull this off in 2012’s On the Impossible Past. It’s shocking that they were able to do it again with this years Rented World.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was not an early adopter of the Menzingers. Their first record A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology was released in 2007. I am more than slightly disappointed in myself for this oversight. At the time, I had just graduated from Virginia Tech. I didn’t have what I would call a real job, but I was having alot of fun and discovering a lot of music.
Now, for those of you who don’t remember, most of the “pop punk” (This is what I classify virtually all of the music I listen to.) that seemed to be coming out in 2007 was really just glorified pop. Basically, boy bands with guitars, who may or may not have been writing their own music. It was as if, in typical big business fashion, record labels saw the success of the more grassroots bands that got huge around 2004 and wanted more of the pie. This was despite the fact that mainstream popularity of the genre seemed to be waning.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There was some good music coming out at the time. I am not an elitist who thinks that everything written after my eighteenth birthday is terrible. I am just saying that based on the new music I was exposed to, the genre had evolved. Perhaps that was why hearing the Swellers for the first time was so refreshing. They sounded like what I wanted my genre of music to be. What I thought it should be.
What does this have to do with the Menzingers? Well, they were writing the kind of music I wanted to hear, but I didn’t know it existed. Years later when I first heard “Alpha Kaa Fall Off a Balcony”, I was both stoked and disenchanted. I lived in Virginia, just a few hours drive from the Menzinger’s home of Scranton in 2007. I should have at least discovered them by accident.
Let’s fast forward to the summer of 2012. When I finally heard On the Impossible Past for the first time, I was blown away. I really wish a had a grand origin story for my memory band, but I don’t. I was honestly just trolling Absolute Punk for new music before a trip to visit family and friends... and attend a few weddings. It was a pretty awesome trip.
What makes On the Impossible Past unique, at least for me, is that it has stayed in my heavy rotation since the first listen. Typically, I’ll listen to an album a lot for a few months(if it’s really good) and then it will fade into the ether. I will still listen to it often, but not daily or even weekly. Not so with the On the Impossible Past. Within weeks it became one my favorite albums and has stayed in my top 5 most played albums ever since. This has never happened before.
I was actually a little bit terrified when the Menzingers announced that they were recording a new album. The past 15 years are littered with bands that blew me away with an album only to let me down with the next. Typically, the more I like the first album, the more the next lets me down.
When the Menzingers released the first two singles off Rented World, I was pleasantly surprised. While “I Don’t Want to be an Asshole Anymore” and “In Remission” are two very different songs, both somehow managed to embody everything that was great about On the Impossible Past while still sounding like a logical progression. The first sounded like the kind of song that should start a show. It builds up a little tension, then dives headfirst into the unbridled passion that gets a crowd moving. It seems like the chorus was crafted with the innate knowledge of the kind of lyrics that punk rock fans can’t help but sing.
“In Remission” is on the other side of the Menzingers spectrum. The build up is a little slower. It’s lyrics are somehow both depressing and optimistic. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take too long before the energy picks up and bleeds through your speakers. The song spends the next few minutes taking you on a roller coaster ride, ultimately coming to the conclusion, “If everyone needs a crutch, then I need a wheelchair.” I'd be lying if I said I couldn't relate to that notion.
By the time I was finally able to listen to Rented World in it’s entirety, my expectations were pretty high. The last album had been amazing and these first two singles were equally impressive. Now I may just have been tired or in a bad mood, but the first listen of Rented World did not grab me like I had expected. Then I lived with the album for a few days. Increasingly the other songs on the album seemed to invade my body and now I can’t get them out of my head. It’s wonderful. This may be the best follow up to a “favorite” album that I’ve ever heard. I have to say, though, occasionally, I find myself wanting to skip forward to “In Remission.” That song is so good that it the others ahead of it feel a little bit like foreplay.... but I do my best to enjoy the build up.
The Menzingers write great records. They put on a great live show. I’m not sure what more I need to say. I mean, their shows are what I imagine a perfect show to be like. Everyone singing along. Just enough movement to keep things interesting without being overbearing (I’m getting old, alright.). They sound great and... this is an important bit... the band really seems like the feel privileged to be playing for a crowd that enjoys what they have to offer.
If you haven’t heard the Menzingers yet, I probably just ruined them for you. It would be difficult for any band to live up to the praise that I have just sent their way. Let’s hope that I’m wrong. If I’m not, I’m kind of sorry... but not really.
Now go support the Apex hoodie over on Kickstarter.