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Album Review: The Menzingers – “Hello Exile”

The Menzingers were the first band I could truly say was my own. I was twenty-one when On the Impossible Past came out, and looking back, I’m not sure there was ever a better time to be that young. For myself and others, the Menzingers had just written an album that could be considered as monumental as Reinventing Axl Rose or Caution. And since then, they’ve toured endlessly and continued releasing quality albums. Sure, they’re not as fast and screamy as they used to be, but they’ve settled into a comfortable niche within the greater world of punk and indie, and more importantly, they occupy this space with consistently poignant songcraft. 

Hello Exile follows up After the Party, which in a lot of ways, was as career-defining as On the Impossible Past. This makes for a challenging release, as how many great albums does any band have in them? What’s always impressed me about the Menzingers is how they’re able to crank out so many of these great songs, and really, Hello Exile is no different. The songwriting is there, just as before (maybe too much as before, actually), and the melodies are just as sticky. Is this album a masterpiece? Well, no. After the Party and On the Impossible Past still lay the best claim to that elusive victory, but Hello Exile is no slouch, and while it may be divisive, it still brings the heart and lyricism that its fans crave. 

That being said, the greatest strengths and weaknesses of Hello Exile lay within its songwriting. The Menzingers have always been a songwriting-forward band, and as such, I think that’s a fair place to start, with both my praise and my criticism. Here, we have the band progressing into exciting new heights, and falling back onto old crutches. Opening song “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)” is one of my favorites of the album and it’s also the punkiest. Which means, if you’re reading between the lines—that no, this is not the album where the Menzingers’ reclaim their title as a raw-throated punk rock group. The song itself is a driving force though and it’s nice to see the band react politically (“what kind of monster did our parents vote for?”). They’ve always been a thoughtful band, and they again prove that in spades, even dropping a line referencing totalitarian Vichy France. “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)” continues a career-spanning tradition of opening their albums with absolute bangers. 

“Anna” is an equally great song, but it’s also where the band begins to look a little exposed. Here, is a wonderful track about a long-distance relationship, featuring a helluva hook. But here, we start seeing the limited subject matter inherent in the Menzingers’ songwriting. With lyrical references to Nabokov in his back pocket, we’ve all grown accustomed to guitarist/singer Greg Barnett as a deep literary reader. I’m pretty sure I’ve even read an interview where he mentions wanting to tackle writing a novel. These are awesome aims for anyone, let alone the primary songwriter in a punk band. But all artists can fall into the trap of repeating themselves. We’ve seen far too many songs about growing up, being reckless in Bukowski-certified ways, and doomed relationships. If I were Barnett’s writing coach right now, I’d be telling him he needs to push himself into new perspectives and subject matter. He needs to take an inventory of his common tropes and start building beyond them. Because, right now, it’s okay—“Anna” is one of my favorite songs on the album. But how many more “Anna”’s can we take before we start seeing the dove hidden in his sleeve?

“High School Friend” trods-well on familiar notes of nostalgia as well, but it does so with a sense of purpose, setting up the album’s theme of growing up before your time. This is, in a way, a sequel album to After the Party, it’s thematic mate. “Hello Exile,” the title track, is actually one of the stranger tracks I’ve seen the Menzingers do in recent years, and because of that, it has grown on me as one of the highlights of the new album. It has a swanky, cocktails-in-first-class feel throughout its opening, growing into a bluesy, Americana drenched singalong. It’s one of the best songs on the album and features some of Barnett’s most vivid imagery to date. “Strain Your Memory” is probably the song that most fans will be wishing the band would write more of, and it’s easy to understand why. In an album of plaintive mid-tempo jams, this is the mid-album rager that’ll get bodies moving in the pit. Of course, as is standard, it comes with a melody that fits easily on the throat and tastes sweet on the tongue. 

It’s not fair to paint Hello Exile as a riskless album though, because it does actually takes some large strides forward. “I Can’t Stop Drinking” is a great example of this. At five minutes and ten seconds, it’s the longest track on the album. I like that it challenges some of the Menzingers’ repeated imagery (“…and we drove back drunk through the busy city streets.”) with what is an ironically sober look at themselves. Greg Barnett is rightly lauded for his short story approach to songwriting, often taking his lyrics behind the eyes of another character. But, “I Can’t Stop Drinking” feels cutting, personal, and painful. I hope that both approaches survive into the band’s future, but it serves as a stark reminder of where all these pretty words are born. 

“Farewell Youth” completes the album’s arc with its chorus, “I was always hanging out with the older kids.” It feels like the Menzingers closing a chapter on themselves. These guys are just a little bit older than me, so probably feeling pretty similar things as they’re entering their thirties. They’ve spent over a decade as the Menzingers, a single unit with no personnel changes. That’s an impressive feat, especially while staying grounded enough to keep their audience engaged with their heartfelt melancholy. “Farewell Youth” doesn’t feel sad though, and it echoes a sentiment from the album’s opener, where Barnett croons, “Oh, how do I steer my early 30’s/ Before I shipwreck, before I’m 40.” The keyword is steer. There is control present, an eagerness for the future that can’t quite eclipse what’s passed behind them. It’s bittersweet, but as this album closes a chapter, I’m interested in where the ship takes us next. 

As so far, I’ve talked mostly about Barnett’s contributions to the album; these songs have come to define the sound of the band for many, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Tom May’s contributions to the album. He’s only got three songs on the album, but they’re three of the best he’s written, “Portland” being my personal highlight. I have mixed feelings here because I believe that the voice of a band is a difficult thing to navigate, because bands, by their very nature, are a collaborative art. But, because of the relative lack of Tom May’s songs, the cohesiveness of the album diminishes. There’s already a jolting difference in songcraft between the two writers (which I believe was at its finest point back in the OTIP days, as far as interplay and shared aims are concerned). One is nostalgic and wistful, carrying the band toward a more poetic direction. The other is sharp and declarative, the punkier heart of the band. I’d like to see these collaborate deeper in their compositions, combining their voices to do away with the notion of Greg-songs or Tom-songs, and just write Menzingers songs. 

So, what else can I say about a new Menzingers album? 

How about this—the biggest fuck up the Menzingers have committed is being good enough to become anyone’s favorite band. This is a review filled with nitpicks and suggestions, it gives praise and criticism to songs in equal breaths. Why? Because the Menzingers mean more to me than any other band, and with that affection, comes a sense of ownership. The Menzingers are my band. They’re the ones I learned to drink to, traveled hours to see, and became the go-to singalong for my group of friends. If all those sad-sack, Barnett-penned relationship songs have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t help but pick apart the things we love. Hello Exile shows the band stretching their limbs, ending an era with maturity and verve. It features some new tricks and also features some we’ve seen before. But for a band tied so much to so many personal times and places, I’m excited for a new sonic bookmark. 

4/5*

*This score is meaningless. Listen to the album. 



The Menzingers Release New Album “Hello Exile”

Today’s the day! The Menzingers sixth studio album and fourth Epitaph release Hello Exile is out today on Epitaph, after months of teasers and singles. Scranton, PA’s favorite sons have been steadily on the rise since 2012’s On the Impossible Past, churning out banger after banger on both 2014’s Rented World and 2017’s After the Party. Hello Exile appears to be no exception, though it does mark a further evolution of the Springsteen-esque lyrical content and swelling pop guitars we saw in After the Party.

The Menzingers last premiered the final album single “Strangers Forever” in September. You can watch that below, and or get the whole album in any format here.



The Menzingers share video for new song ‘Strangers Forever’

As we get closer to the release of The Menzingers new studio album, they have treated us to a third single ‘Strangers Forever’. 

On the song, singer Greg Barnett said “Lyrically, the song is inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, ‘Anna Karenina’. In it, the character Darya Alexandrovna learns of her husband’s infidelity and declares: ‘Even if we remain in the same house, we are strangers — strangers forever! The idea of becoming a stranger to someone you so intimately know stuck with me and became the overarching narrative to this song.”

‘Hello Exile’ is out on Epitaph Records on October 4th. Check out the video for ‘Strangers Forever’ below.



New video from The Menzingers, “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)”

With a rather timely song, The Menzingers have released a new single from their upcoming album, Hello Exile, which is out October 4th on Epitaph Records. Of the song and video, the band says: “We’re living in a pretty insane time, where all you can think about every single day is ‘What the hell is going on with this country?’” says vocalist Greg Barnett. “But as I was writing that song I realized that it’s kind of always freaked me out, especially coming-of-age during the Iraq War. I love so much about America, but I think you can’t deny that there are some people in power who are absolutely evil.”

Hard to argue with that. You can watch the brand-new video below.



DS Photo Gallery: Roadblock Festival w/Bad Religion, The Menzingers, The Old Firm Casuals and more!

The last weekend in July marked the maiden voyage of a new New England-based punk rock experience. It’s called the Roadblock Festival, and it took place outside at Bold Point Park in East Providence, which serves as Rhode Island’s largest outdoor concert venue and comes complete with views of the Narragansett Bay and the sunset over the state capital. It’s not the best run venue, but my personal feelings about staff communication deficiencies aside, it’s a pretty picturesque place to take in a punk rock show when the weather cooperates. This particular show featured a diverse lineup, food trucks, wrestling, and a late-arriving crowd that allowed show-goers the opportunity to spread out and seek a little shade from the midsummer sun.

For traffic and parking-related reasons, we arrived shortly after our beloved Rebuilder took the stage. They band were playing with a bit of a retooled lineup; with co-frontman Craig Stanton out of town, Sal Ellington and bassist Daniel Carswell were joined by regular drummer Brandon Phillips on guitar and vocals and by Choke Up’s Harley Cox filling in on drums. It was a high-energy, well-received set that was certainly worthy of taking place later in the afternoon. They were followed out of the chute by a back-to-back pair of legendary acts: Cro-Mags and HR from Bad Brains. Technically speaking, the former was “Cro-Mags JM,” the John Joseph/AJ Novello version of the influential NYHC band. HR performed a half-hour set of punk-infused reggae songs with a band that was heavy and airtight in spite of a relative few shows under their collective belts.

Next up came Portland, Maine’s Roseview, a five piece post hardcore band who are, admittedly, not my speed. A band that are my speed, The Old Firm Casuals, came next. Making their first and only New England appearance as a four-piece – lead guitarist Gabe Gavriloff joined in the four-ish years since OFC were last here, the quartet overcame a handful of bizarre, REd Hot Chili Peppers-infused technical difficulties to buzzsaw a way through forty minute set of rock solid street punk rock-and roll. In one of the more interesting musical segues of the day, they were followed by Charly Bliss, the four-piece New York-based band who were wrapping up two successful months of world touring in support of their latest synth-pop-infused release, Young Enough.

The Menzingers played the event’s penultimate set as the sunlit portion of the day’s festivities came to an end. By that point, the bulk of the late-arriving crowd had finally descended upon Bold Point Park, and Philadelphia’s beloved sons were met with a barrage of crowd-surfers and thrown beer cans from the opening tones of their hour-long set. Bad Religion closed out the night in flawless fashion. I’m frequently left in awe that a band that’s been around literally as long as a band as I have as a person (editor’s note: I turn 40 next month) can sound just as vital and important and energetic as ever. This is punk rock, not the Beach Boys or a Grateful Dead cover band (both of whom would occupy this stage in the next week), yet on their recently-released Age Of Unreason full length, and more importantly in their live show, Bad Religion keep showing the rest of us how it’s done.

Head below to check out our full photo gallery.



The Menzingers discuss upcoming album on podcast

Tom May of The Menzingers is the latest guest on UK podcast ‘The Wasting Time Podcast’. With the recent announcement of their new album ‘Hello Exile’ and the release of the single ‘Anna’, Tom goes into detail about what fans can expect from the forthcoming release.

The episode can be heard on all the usual platforms as well as the podcast website. If you haven’t seen the video for new single ‘Anna’ yet, it can be found below.



The Menzingers announce new album “Hello Exile” and tour dates, stream new single “Anna”

Philadelphia punk legends The Menzingers have announced that they will release their sixth full length “Hello Exile” via Epitaph on October 4. The album is the follow-up to 2017’s “After The Party”. 

The first single from the album, “Anna”, has been released today, and the band have also announced a UK/EU run to support the release. Check out the song and the tour dates below.



Roadblock Music Festival announces lineup

Roadblock Music Festival will be taking place on July 27th at Bold Point Park in East Providence Rhode Island and will feature Bad Religion, The Menzingers, Charly Bliss, Old Firm Casuals, Cro-Mags, Rebuilder and more.

Not only can you see some awesome punk acts, but you can help a great cause as well.  A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to Whiteknact PTA Operation Playground in East Providence to build a playground for handicapped students.  You can grab your tickets here.



New single from The Menzingers, “No Penance” b/w ” Cemetery’s Garden” streaming now

Scranton, Pennsylvania’s favorite sons The Menzingers have released a new single, which features two songs – “No Penance” and “Cemetery’s Garden”. Released June 14th on Epitaph, it’s a little treat from a beloved band.

Check out the two new songs below.



Stream The Sidekicks’ “People’s Court” and catch them on tour with The Menzingers

Ohio’s The Sidekicks will be touring with The Menzingers this summer, for the following leg of the tour:

Jun 22 Lansing, MI – Three Stacks Festival
Jul 6 Yellow Springs, OH – Springsfest
Jul 23 Syracuse, NY – The Lost Horizon
Jul 24 Buffalo, NY – Rec Room
Jul 25 London, Canada – Rum Runners
Jul 28 Worchester, MA – Palldium
Jul 30 Lakewood, OH – Phantasy Nightclub
Jul 31 Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme
Aug 1 Indianapolis, IN – Old National Centre
Aug 2 Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall
Aug 4 Iowa City, IA – Gabe’s
Aug 6 Cincinatti, OH – Southgate House Revival
Aug 8 Charleston, SC – The Music Farm
Aug 9 Virginia Beach – Peabody’s Nightclub
Aug 10 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar

They’ll be supporting their new single, “People’s Court.,” which you can hear below. The song is off their new album, Happiness Hours, which is out May 18th on Epitaph Records.



Slam Dunk 2019 Reveals Clash-Proof Stages

In a first for the UK punk / emo / metalcore all-dayer, Slam Dunk 2019 has announced that some stages will alternate their programming, becoming clash-proof. This year, neither the Jagermeister Stage or Impericon stage will clash, making sure fans of hardcore and metalcore will be able to catch both stage lineups throughout the day. In addition, The Dickies Stage and The Marshall Stage will not clash with each other either.

This means fans of the heavier end of the spectrum will be able to catch Atreyu, Glassjaw, Silverstein, Gallows, The Bronx and Cancer Bats, amongst others, without fear of missing out.  Similarly, fans of the more emo and indie spirited acts can see the likes of The Menzingers, Touche Amore, The Get Up Kids, Saves The Day, Plain White T’s, Real Friends, Seaway, Trophy Eyes and more without needing to choose between stages.

The one day event, with dates in the North and South of England, is rounded out with Fat Mike’s Punk in Drublic stage (NOFX, Bad Religion, Less Than Jake, Millencolin, Lag Wagon and more), Monster Energy stage (All Time Low, New Found Glory, Neck Deep, Boston Manor and more) along with 3 other stages showcasing up and coming and and acoustic artists.



Epitaph announces Record Store Day releases

Epitaph has announced their upcoming releases for Record Store Day, which takes place on April 13th.  The label will be releasing Bad Religion – My Sanity 7″, The Menzingers No Penance b/w Cemetery’s Garden 7ThricePalms – Deeper Wellsand Justin Courtney PierreOpen Mic At The Lo-Fi: Vol. 1.



Tom May (The Menzingers) has Toby from Red Scare as guest on his podcast

Tom May, co-vocalist and guitarist of The Menzingers, has a podcast called Future Friday and his latest guest is founder of Red Scare Toby Jeg.

The two discuss Fest, touring Australia, contraband, discovering punk, and more. Have a listen over on the podcast website.



The Menzingers get freaky with “The Freaks”

The Menzingers just released their new song “The Freaks”. The song features some powerfull melodies and excellent songwriting. For the accompanying music video the band teamed up with director Adam Peditto. The video features a Halloween party, which has a beautiful melancholly feel to it, something we see quite a lot in Peditto’s work.

Check out the video and their tour dates below. 



The Menzingers release new single, “Toy Soldier”

Last week The Menzingers released a new single, “Toy Soldier.” It’s the band’s first release since last year’s “After the Party.”

Check out “Toy Soldier” below!