The Menzingers - After The Party (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Menzingers

After The Party (2017)

Epitaph Records

It's been a damn good ride aging with The Menzingers from my 20's into my 30's. This album, seasoned, weathered and so full of experience, couldn't have come at a better time because it addresses exactly that transition. Over the course of the years, they've gone from the feisty, aggressive days of records like Chamberlain Waits and Hold On Dodge to more tempered, mature and melodic dad-rock/dad-punk because as life wears on you, you need to take it down several notches. Their music's gone from shots of whiskey to now, a long, slow gulp that reflects on the past. After The Party does look back at the party of being young, and addresses the after-party known as growing old and reflecting on those years, fondly, with no regrets and of course, with wonder.

'Where are we gonna go now that our 20's are over?' drives the opening track, "Tellin' Lies," warning you not to fool yourself when the time comes to put to bed the fire of youth. It's one of so many songs here that are catchy, anthemic, singalong bangers fit for fans who wanted more punk from The Gaslight Anthem. Tom May and Greg Barnett are on point as usual, singing about how to embrace the seasons changing. Most of those songs shouldn't come as any surprise because you've seen how they weaned off The Menzingers of old on songs like "Ava House", "Transient Love" and "Nothing Feels Good Anymore" over the years. Rented World and On The Impossible Past felt like clinging to the past whereas After The Party is fully letting go of it and embarking on new chapters. The title track, "Lookers", "Your Wild Years" and "Bars" are all mid-tempo jams with high rises, swelling choruses and shoutalong sections that reiterate older can mean better.

"Thick As Thieves" is another gem for fans of Rolling Stones, Springsteen and AC/DC with its buzzy guitars kicking in later on to throw back to their earlier days. In fact, it's a great representation of how diverse the band's gotten as "House on Fire" unfolds with a hazy set of guitars that quickly become enveloped by a post-rock glaze of shimmer. Same for "Livin' Ain't Easy" which has a subtle ambiance of Kite Party. This arguably stands as their most musically free and explored record to date with "Black Mass" punching you in the gut as a slow-dancer for broken hearts, ironically tailoring a bit to Greg's brother, Bob, when he ripped hearts out on Captain We're Sinking's "A Bitter Divorce."

They've never felt as personal to me and I guess it's because they caught me at the age when this stings the most. "Boy Blue" amps it up a bit, filled with Will Yip's production signature, a-la the post-hardcore Title Fight we've all grown to love and wonder what the fuck happened, or to be a less harsh, like new-era Basement. All in all, you get the full scope of the band throughout this album's progression - where they were, are now and will be. After The Party is an epiphany for the lost who are scared of growing old but as this record remonstrates, fuck it, these older years will be a hell of a ride, once you make it such. They'll be weird but fun and you can keep breaking rules. The big hooks, crunchy guitars and foot-stomping jams will surely have fans erupting at live shows for these songs, because the album's such a rich, full novel, musically and lyrically which we all can, or will end up, relating to. Life does pass us quickly by so let's stop once in a while and take it in. And when we feel like we're way ahead of it, dial it back like this album says, and soak in the glory days of old.