Life after the party: 'Hello Exile' by The Menzingers

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 11:08 AM
Life after the party: 'Hello Exile' by The Menzingers by Evan Donovan

It’s difficult being a punk band in 2019 and keeping it fresh. The Menzingers make it look easy on their latest release, “Hello Exile.” Hailing from Scranton, Pennsylvania, they were born out of a flourishing local hardcore scene. Today, they’ve toured the world, released six full-length albums and have started coming into their own as a band.

The Menzingers are a unicorn in the hardcore community. When you get this big, there is always someone or something trying to bring you down. Sometimes it’s the punk rock purists crying “sellout” at each new release. Sometimes it’s just burnout and the existential dread that comes with surviving the current music industry. On “Hello Exile,” The Menzingers show no signs of pressure.

The album starts with the chaotically playful “America (You’re Freaking Me Out).” It’s also, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most political song on the record. Co-frontman Greg Barnett grapples with several issues at once — including but not limited to rising income inequality, rampant homelessness and religious supremacy.

The second track, “Anna,” is one of the sweetest Menzingers songs to date. Barnett somehow makes his growling, aggressive vocal style feel affectionate on this song, pleading for his lover to stop “travel[ing] so damn much.” Uplifting guitars and lulling melodies on this track create an unmatched sense of nostalgia.

For the most part, the remaining tracks keep up with the high expectations set at the onset. “Last to Know” is a bratty, attention-grabbing punk tune, reminiscent of the band’s earlier work. “Strangers Forever,” meanwhile, sounds like a perfectly cohesive emotional mess. Barnett sacrifices his vocal cords to provide decibel-breaking screams on the chorus.

A few standout tracks inhabit the latter half of “Hello Exile.” “Portland” is a short but potent tune with hints of Scottish influence. Co-vocalist Tom May brings an unparalleled level of energy to his performance on this song. Other noteworthy tracks include “Strain Your Memory” and “London Drugs.”

At worst, a few songs on “Hello Exile” are hopelessly generic. The title track isn’t particularly special, and I never thought about it outside of when I listened to it for this review. “Strawberry Mansion” tries its hardest to sound like a tough-guy bar fight song, but ultimately feels incomplete and very surface-level. The closing track, “Farewell Youth,” is decent but underwhelming. For days I had the chorus of this song stuck in my head — which was incredibly irritating and not fun.

Punk fans, pop-punk fans and everyone in between should find something they like on this album. “Hello Exile” sets a worthy precedent for mainstream punk bands in 2019. Still, it feels as though The Menzingers are playing it too safe on some of these tracks. The production is squeaky clean and the vocals are so pitch-corrected they could be mistaken for perfectly tuned synthesizers. Nevertheless, there are great songs to be heard here. If you haven’t already, listen to this record and see for yourself.

Tags: music review

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