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CD: The Menzingers - Hello Exile | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Menzingers - Hello Exile

CD: The Menzingers - Hello Exile

Pennsylvania punks channel ageing disgracefully into grown-up punk rock

The Menzingers: neither ageing out nor selling out

Punk rock, more so than any other genre, comes with a built-in age limit. There’s only so long you can play weeknights at basement venues for a share of the door and travel expenses; only so many years your back can withstand so many nights on strangers’ sofas. Those that don’t age out, sell out: their youthful excesses repackaged to shill hatchbacks and low-fat spread. Thank god, then, for The Menzingers: a four-piece born in the Scranton, Pennsylvania punk scene who opted to channel their 30s into roots-rock with a latent edge, capturing the free-fall into adulthood proper with a certain deft magic.

It helps that chief songwriters and vocalists Greg Barnett and Tom May sing like late-night drunks at a high school reunion. Barnett’s the sloppy drunk, selling the hell out of contrived rhymes like “if I come into your periphery, please just act like you don’t see me” on after-the-breakup anthem “Strangers Forever”. “It’s like our studio apartment’s just a place to keep your stuff,” he half-rages, half-laments on “Anna”, a song about growing up - and growing apart - that packs a decade worth of regrets into a tight three and a half minutes. May is the angry drunk: “set a course for the sun”, he bellows over a militaristic beat on “Strawberry Mansion”, condemning humanity for its part in the climate crisis.

Although the album tips its political hand right from its opening track - it’s typical Menzingers that a line like “lately I feel like I’m a puppet in Vichy France” feels as primed for a punk rock singalong as “what kind of monsters did our parents vote for?” - its strongest tracks tend to be those that look inwards. “High School Friend” taps the same nostalgic vein as “Bad Catholics”, from 2017’s After The Party - rose-tinted “revisionist history”, its up-tempo melody shot through with a pang of longing by the second verse. “I Can’t Stop Drinking” is a deliberate mood-killer, if a little over-long, in which Barnett trades his usual quotable poetry for lyrics staggering in how much they reveal.

Below: watch the video for "Anna" by The Menzingers

The Menzingers capture the free-fall into adulthood proper with a certain deft magic

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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