Over the first ten years of their life, The Menzingers have never shied away from their boozy reputation. Numerous mentions of alcohol – the good and the bad – are littered throughout the Philadelphia band’s first four albums. Which makes the band’s new album, After The Party, so profound – we already know what happens during the party but what happens after, once all the confetti’s been swept up, the beer’s gone flat, and music turned down? After The Party explores the themes of getting older and bridging the gap between a carefree spirit to a more responsible partner while still trying to escape the mundanity of everyday life.
Anyone who’s been following The Menzingers over the course of their career are aware that vivid scenes and honest recollections have been a staple of the band’s lyricism and After The Party features the duo’s best work yet. The frenetic opener, “20’s (Tellin’ Lies),” sets the tone with Barnett exclaiming, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, everything is terrible” as he departs his twenties, trying to hold onto his youthful ways but ultimately realizing he’ll have to enter the uncertain future. The future also interrupts the past on first single “Lookers,” while the easy-going flow of “Bad Catholics” recalls the time they were “always dipping out before communion started.”
But underneath all the wistful reminiscing is the realization that the present may not be as bright as it once seemed. The spirited “Midwestern States” has a couple scrambling for places to live since their “worthless diplomas” can’t pay the bills and trying to escape Middle America for the sunnier Los Angeles, finding their resolve within their strong relationship (“All our stick and pokes, all our inside jokes, we’ll regret ’em when we’re dead and sober. But we’re still breathing and the party ain’t over”). After The Party focuses a lot on how the past has strained current relationships as Barnett and May seek out how to be better partners. “Black Mass” is a somber number buoyed by Eric Keen’s bass work as Barnett pleads that he’ll “do anything to make you stay.” The raucous “Wings (Your Wild Years),” however, focuses on if our protagonist is doing enough to be the man his girlfriend deserves. And then there’s the growing up on the jovial “Bars,” as May realizes that “no good’ll come from stumbling home in the sun.”
Everything seems to come to a head on the album’s title track. Barnett looks back fondly on all the good times had in the basement but ultimately grasps that when everything is over “it’s just me and you.” This new outlook on life is soundtracked by Barnett and May’s roaring guitar riffs, making the track the pinnacle of the album’s thirteen tracks and once again showcases the striking brilliance of The Menzingers’ storytelling.
After The Party is exploding with melody as well. The chorus from “Lookers” was built to be screamed throughout arenas, while the earnest “Charlie’s Army” was made for jukeboxes in your local dive bar. The cathartic punch of “Midwestern States” will be seared into your memory, along with the sprawling, anthemic “House on Fire.” It goes without saying that this is the best sounding album in The Menzingers’ discography, its seamless balance of power and nuance all courtesy of producer Will Yip.
Just turning 31 myself, this album will resonate for many of us – After The Party is the never ending battle of being thirty and yearning for the misdeeds of the past while realizing that you’re just too old for this shit sometimes. So while this may be The Menzingers growing up and all that, After The Party puts an exclamation point on the band’s remarkable run of poignant and genre-defining punk rock and boldly catapults the band into the next chapter of their careers.