The Menzingers are back with After The Party, the follow-up to 2014’s Rented World. While Rented World was considered by some to be a drop in quality for the band, The Menzingers more than redeem themselves on their newest output.
The opening track “Tellin’ Lies,” despite being maybe a tad too long, sets the tone for the album. Vocalist Greg Barnett delivers lyrics about finally being in your thirties but realizing you have no plan for it. It reminds me of WORRY.’s opener “We Begged 2 Explode,” and it’s just as effective as that song. The more concise and serious lyrics convey the growing up The Menzingers started to face on Rented World without giving up the energy of their earlier work.
Some of the best songs in The Menzingers’ entire catalog show up on this album. Look no further than the lead single off this album, “Lookers.” With the inclusion of an acoustic guitar that really pops within the mix, the band emulates Bruce Springsteen more than any time before. Not just with the heartbreak-soaked lyrics or the soaring guitar riffs, but even references to New Jersey shows how much the band appreciates The Boss. Another particular standout is “The Bars.” This may be the slowest tempo song on the record, but the energy doesn’t hamper a bit. The lyrics stand out as well: “Sunken eyes and strangers' faces / I fall asleep in the strangest places / What the hell am I doing? Where have my friends gone?” further hits upon the desperate uncertainty set with “Tellin’ Lies.”
“The Bars” is indicative of The Menzingers’ increased maturity in songwriting, as several songs go beyond their distinct sound. “Black Mass” is a good example, being a twangy ballad that borders on an alt-country sound, or “Charlie’s Army,” which is maybe the funniest song the band has written (while still keeping with the post-20s anxiety theme present through the album.)
Even though The Menzingers are playing with their formula more on this album, classic songs reminiscent of their first few albums are also featured here. The second single, “Bad Catholics,” is a fine example, with a punchy riff that’s impossible to not bang your head along with. The song is filled with typical Menzingers tropes of driving around with a cute girl, causing some general trouble along the way. The title track (which feels like it could have been on Come On, Dodge) is in a similar vein, with the prominent lyrical imagery the band is known for (“Coffee grounds and coffee cups / Your silhouette in high top sneakers” being a particular standout.)
The album closes with “Livin’ Ain’t Easy.” While not exactly a standout track, it fits well alongside the rest of the songs on here and is a satisfying enough conclusion.
If you’re a diehard Menzingers fan, this album would please you no matter what. If you’re a skeptic that wasn’t keen on Rented World, however, I would recommend giving this a spin to renew your faith in one of the best bands out there today. The band is set to tour with Jeff Rosenstock and Rozwell Kid later this month, and this album should make you all the more excited to see them.