Artist: The Menzingers
Album: Hello Exile
Genre: Punk Rock
Review by Thomas Lanyon
On their sixth studio album, The Menzingers could care less about reinventing the wheel. Instead, they double down on the evocative songwriting and undeniable hooks that have cemented them as one of punk rock’s most consistently, reliable bands.
Stylistically, Hello Exile feels like a natural continuation of the material on 2017’s, After the Party, only more refined and fleshed out, like the songs were given a little more room to breathe and develop organically during the writing process. Similarly to its predecessor, Hello Exile spends the majority of its run time ruminating on the past (“High School Friend”), the “good times” if you will, the fear of growing older, and the loss of youth (“Farewell Youth”) that that inevitably carries with it. And while subject matter of this sort may not be breaking new ground, it’s handled here with a heartfelt sincerity that renders originality a moot point.
That heartfelt sincerity can largely be contributed to frontman, Greg Barnett (vocals/guitar), whose voice can be heard on nine of the twelve songs that make up Hello Exile’s tracklisting, and here he turns in one of his best performances. His voice has always been at its most evocative when he leans into the distinct, eccentric qualities of his voice, and he does so often here, eclipsed only by moments on 2014’s, Rented World. Vocalist/guitarist, Tom May’s vocal contribution is certainly lesser here than on previous efforts, however, he does provide Hello Exile with a couple of fist pumping, shout along anthems (“Portland”, “Strawberry Mansion”), that will make great additions to their live set.
Many bands would be forgiven for only ever turning in one truly classic song. The Menzingers, however, have managed to do just that on every full length album since 2012’s landmark, On the Impossible Past. That records got “Gates”, the best song on the best album the band’s ever written, and arguably the greatest punk rock song of the decade. On Rented World, there’s the haunting, Bob Dylan-esque, “When You Died”. After the Party’s got “Your Wild Years”, and this time around it’s all about, “Farewell Youth”, Hello Exile’s final and finest moment. A song that so accurately captures the feeling and struggle of wanting to be older when you’re young, and younger as you grow old.
As The Menzingers grow older, they remain remarkably consistent. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.
8 out of 10.
Hello Exile is out now on Epitaph Records.