Release Date: Oct 4, 2019
Record label: Epitaph
Sometimes, life works out well. For everyone else, there's "revisionist history." In a fit of premature triumphalism in the early '90s, Francis Fukuyama wrote about the so-called "end of history" and victory of liberal democracy, an understandable claim for a Reagan adviser to make but a myopic one for any self-respecting scholar. Almost three decades later, Greg Barnett is singing about being "on the lonely end of history," deriding the "crime scene of new penthouses next to tents in the streets," the most enduring image of the neoliberal economics championed by people like Fukuyama.
Having rapidly established themselves as expert storytellers, 'Hello Exile' sees The Menzingers firmly cement their place at the top of the pile. Throwing themselves further into the Americana tinge of fellow troubadours, and rightly winning comparisons to iconic heavyweights such as Bruce Springsteen, the band deftly craft vivid worlds with their distinctive heartland punk. Their often melancholic and always unreservedly honest lyrics are accompanied by driving instrumentation and Greg Barnett and Tom May's ever-gritty delivery, underpinned by the band's best melodies to date.
The Menzingers write about basically one thing, though contrary to this tweet, it's not the waitress outside the all-night diner. The seven-year span from their second LP Chamberlain Waits to 2017's After the Party is a longitudinal study of men in their 20s struggling to process the passage of time, drinking away the tragicomic pain of reliving the good ol' days that never happened. Imagine "Glory Days" if it was just the third verse, the high-school jocks and heartbreakers replaced by guys in dumpy vans and stalled relationships wishing they committed themselves to something more substantial--or as "House on Fire" put it, "waiting for your life to start, then you die.
The Menzingers are back for their sixth LP and it's definitely another gem from a band that personally can do no wrong. I've thoroughly enjoyed all their material over the years, detailing broken hearts, lost loves and just about everything Philly and environs have to offer. But what really stands out here is that when I stopped listening to After The Party -- without a doubt my favourite record of theirs -- it felt, not just musically but thematically and lyrically -- like the penultimate episode of a TV show.