The Philadelphia-based punk rockers, The Menzingers, are showing no signs of slowing down on their great seventh studio album called Some Of It Was True. Produced by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, the War on Drugs, Waxahatchee), the album feels as reinvigorated as the band themselves, and highlights the band’s songwriting improvements from moving away from more introspective songs to more worldly issues that affect the lives of everyone around us. While their last record, Hello Exile, was drenched in the cloud of COVID quarantines, Some Of It Was True finds The Menzingers reaching outside of their usual comfort zone of writing by expanding upon the ideas they’ve tinkered with over their storied career, and quite possibly, creating their most fully-realized work of art to date. This album was recorded at the legendary Sonic Ranch in the heart of El Paso, Texas, and this foursome utilized the strengths of producer Brad Cook to create a record that not only moves the needle of creativity further down the line for The Menzingers, but also makes for an ultra-memorable statement as one of the best albums of 2023.
The record blasts off with a cautionary tale called “Hope is a Dangerous Little Thing,” that finds lead vocalist Greg Barnett admitting that, “I’m afraid I love someone / Who’s in love with someone else / For years I’ve kept it to myself / Pretending we are picture-perfect / But I barely got my shit together / Cracking under little pressure / I’m afraid I’m not the one / The one you want is someone else.” It’s a heart-wrenching way to open an album that’s filled with plenty of twists and turns. Things continue to remain interesting on “There’s No Place In this World For Me,” as Barnett’s emotive vocals carry far above the foursome’s instruments in the best way possible. The well-constructed refrain of, “Sometimes I can’t help but think / There’s no place in this world for me / I’m never where I want to be / There’s no place in this world for me,” is as heartbreaking as it is relatable.
”Nobody Stays” is a slow-burning mid-tempo track that finds its lyrical material clouded in mystery. The cryptic second verse of, “I’ve come to find / The skyline lost its mind / And I can’t find your name / Only old ghosts remain,” allows for a brief glimmer of light to shine into the headspace of the band when they penned these words. The title track features a rockin’ bass line from Eric Keen that helps drive to the anthemic chorus, and keeps the album laser-focused.
My personal favorite in the set comes from the recently released single, “Try,” that accentuates the dual-guitar attack from Barnett and Tom May in the best way possible. The heartbreaking admission in the second verse of, “All grief, no relief / Same story on repeat / Too broke to save the world / Too broke to save myself / When you’re falling slowly / It’s not your fault / So tired and lonely / It’s all fucked up,” is a good invitation into the current state of the world. Sometimes it feels like we’re doing all we can to “fix” things, but we fall flat on our face due to some type of roadblock.
The front-half closes out with “Come On Heartache,” a heartfelt ballad that showcases the improvements in The Menzingers ever-evolving sound. The pre-chorus of, “I detest your pitter-patter in my chest / A cruel conviction, thinking you know what’s best / The way you tense up every time she’s near / The way you give up when she disappears,” is punk rock bliss, and makes a song even The Clash would’ve been proud to call their own.
Things remain interesting with the slow-building “Ultraviolet,” that puts the spotlight directly on vocalist Greg Barnett as he tells a vivid story of falling head over heels in love with the person you’d want to spend all your time with. I really related to the lyrics of, “You always saved the little gems / The hotel pens, the bar napkins / So when the moment ends / We could remember it,” since it reminded me of the little trinkets I collect from place to place that I’ve been to with my wife, and sometimes looking at these past items can bring back a flood of wonderful memories.
Other late-album standouts like “Love at the End” and the wonderfully-crafted punk rock guitar bliss of “Alone in Dublin,” remind me of why I fell in love with this band in the first place. Much like a fine wine, The Menzingers continue to get better with age, and show just how far they’ve come since their early days of forming in 2006. “High Low” marries the rich balance between expanding upon the ideas the band hinted at in the early days of their career, and moving forward in creative ways to keep longtime fans hanging on every note. While “I Didn’t Miss You (Until You Were Gone)” rocks with the purpose of a Gaslight Anthem song, features the storytelling of Bruce Springsteen, and the punk rock spirit of Social Distortion.
Album closer, “Running in the Roar of the Wind” leaves just the right taste in the listeners’ mouths as Barnett sings on the chorus, “I’m ready for what’s next to happen / I’m ready for anything at all / I’m ready for what’s next to happen / To keep on running in the roar of the wind,” as the band hints that they’re far from done in their creative endeavors. You would be hard-pressed to find a harder working band in this scene of music that shows this much dedication to their craft. The Menzingers have delivered the goods in more ways than one in their career spanning album Some Of It Was True.