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The Menzingers - Hello Exile (Album Review)

Wednesday, 09 October 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Jess Flynn

Since releasing ‘On The Impossible Past’ in 2012, the Menzingers have been gradually reinventing themselves. The changes have been subtle, perhaps barely discernible from a distance, but important: flecks of Americana, an injection of narrative songwriting, the confidence to let their classic rock flag fly.

‘Hello Exile’ is the finest example yet of their evolution. It shares plenty of DNA with 2017’s ‘After The Party’, which was also recorded with producer Will Yip at Studio 4 in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, but is less polished, less bombastic. Its sound is earthy, and gritty when it needs to be.

Its presentation is an ideal foil for songs that seek to tell the truth—both lyrically and by combining the different strands of the Menzingers’ personality.

There is a seam of disaffection running through the LP, lending weight to the anger that sometimes wells up in the throats of co-vocalists and guitarists Greg Barnett and Tom May. “What kind of monsters did our parents vote for?” Barnett wonders on the righteous opener America (You’re Freaking Me Out). 

Elsewhere, a neat balance is maintained between the Menzingers’ early days as a gruff punk band and their more expansive present. Barnett brings warmth and pathos to Strain Your Memory, which explodes from charging verses into a soaring, power-ballad-adjacent chorus, while May leans into his sideline in mid-paced laments with the rich Last to Know before slamming on the accelerator for the furious Strawberry Mansion.

‘Hello Exile’ is a record by a band who understand their existing strengths and how to buttress them with fresh elements. The Menzingers are classicists in some ways—they’re not seeking to rip up the rock rulebook as much as find their place alongside its best practitioners. The title track’s gilded nods to Tom Petty don’t feel out of place, even among the reminders of how things used to be when it was all punk, all the time.

As scene elders, both at home in Philadelphia and as a punk band who now sell out theatres, the Menzingers are nearing a totemic sort of presence. The quality of ‘Hello Exile’ only underlines that. They have been around for a long time, and don’t appear to be going anywhere. “We know all the ups and downs each other have been through,” Barnett sings on the excellent High School Friend. Soon, under stage lights, that lyric will take on a different sort of resonance.

The Menzingers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu February 06 2020 - SOUTHAMPTON Engine Rooms
Fri February 07 2020 - BRISTOL SWX
Sat February 08 2020 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Mon February 10 2020 - DUBLIN Whelans
Tue February 11 2020 - GLASGOW QMU
Wed February 12 2020 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Riverside
Fri February 14 2020 - BIRMINGHAM Asylum
Sat February 15 2020 - LONDON O2 Forum Kentish Town

Click here to compare & buy The Menzingers Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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