Album Review: The Menzingers – ‘Hello Exile’
Posted: by The Editor
Let me take you back to 2017. It’s March and I’m staring turning 20 in the face. I hear how a record is supposed to start with “Tellin’ Lies”. The opener to The Menzingers’ fifth studio album, After the Party asks, “Where are we gonna go now that our 20’s are over?” A lyric that gave me hope that this new decade of my life would be the first party I’m actually invited to.
Fast forward to now. I’m messily navigating my 20’s in duality with vocalist, Greg Barnett, navigating his 30’s. Hello Exile serves as the narrative continuation of After the Party with its opener, “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)”.
“How do I steer my early 30’s before I shipwreck, before I’m 40?” takes over as the new question of the hour, acknowledging the last record and looking at the current state of the union, hell on earth.
The Menzingers have one of the most recognizable styles in music I’ve heard. Sonically, they are a mid-tempo punk band with flourishes of pop rock, making them distinct. Lyrically, we can look at second track “Anna” for a checklist: Philly? Check. A girl? Check. Missing the past? Triple check.
Missing how the good times rolled is a common theme for a Menzingers record, this is no different on Hello Exile. “High School Friend” is a road trip of reminiscing the simpler times, and “Strain Your Memory” is a plea for the world to stop pressing decisions that are best left, for the moment, uncertain.
“Jesus Christ be damned,” let’s talk about where the record really sets itself apart from its predecessor. “Last To Know” is a different take on the mid-tempo style the band calls home, bringing to attention the drums especially, which carry throughout. Barnett’s vox have also shifted, less intense than the signature.
There’s a different take on memories here, more of an outward than inward look; and rather than dedicate a verse to biblical anecdotes, (“America,” “Strain Your Memory,”) it’s the whole song.
Continuing in this slowed, differentiating style are “Hello Exile” and “Portland,” more proof that The Menzingers’ freaky talent of living similar lives to fans pays off. “Portland”’s repeated “bring the part of me you love back,” is such a brilliant way of saying, “I let you have too much of me.” By the time “I Can’t Stop Drinking” rolls in, you find yourself thinking of the ‘Anna’ in your life.
Before the record ends, Barnett picks up the vocals again with “Strawberry Mansion.” The album then slows with the penultimate track, “London Drugs”. A song in the same headspace of “I Can’t Stop Drinking”.
In my first listen to this record, I wanted more. I wanted a completely new style, new themes, new Menzingers. Now, I’m realizing that A) That’s just not the band, and B) I got what I asked for, just deeper rooted in the music than two years ago. Hello Exile is as much of a continuation as it is a departure.
The final goodbye to After the Party? “Farewell Youth”. A song, I think, Barnett knew was coming since the fear of turning 30 in 2017, to now navigating the reality of 2019. Usually I accidentally tend to skate through lyrics on records, but pay attention to these. You might find a little of yourself in them.
I don’t know why we are always in such a rush to grow up — the quicker we do, the quicker we realize we didn’t mean it. While “Farewell Youth” has somber storytelling, there’s something positive about it. Yes, that time is gone and we might’ve lived it in a different way had we known more, but here’s to the future. Here’s to a new decade, here’s to chaos. Hello Exile, here’s to you.
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