I wrote about the Menzingers’ last album, After The Party, for Stereogum’s rundown of The 50 Best Albums Of 2017 So Far. Which was last … June? Holy moly. It seems somehow impossible that we’re now approaching 2018’s year-end lists, but hey, the passage of time, right? As Pink Floyd put it:
Every year is getting shorter
Never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
The Menzingers sing a lot about that subject too, in their own way. If you’ll permit me the lazy indulgence of quoting my own writing:
The truly essential hardcore albums are great not so much for what they are but what they capture: youth in its magic hour; the evanescent moment at which confidence, curiosity, ambition, and ability have reached a convergence point, colliding there with outsize excitement, idealism, and naïveté. That last part is crucial. The young artists behind these albums believe they are at the beginning of something. In fact, they are at the end of something else. Philadelphia’s Menzingers aren’t old by any reasonable standard, but they’re old enough to know they’re not that young anymore, and they’re smart enough to know that it’s stupid to pretend otherwise. The band’s fifth album, After The Party, is a thoughtful meditation on that moment, delivered in ripping, riotously catchy, almost unfairly well-written punk songs. “Where we gonna go now that our twenties are over?” sings frontman Greg Barnett on album opener “Tellin’ Lies.” On “Lookers,” he’s nostalgic about the Jersey girls of his adolescence (“always total heartbreakers”), but what he really misses is the promise, the potential, the adventure always on the horizon back then. “That was the old me/ I was such a looker in the old days.” Now he’s got a stack of questions, regrets, bills, and memories, but he renders them in brilliant detail. On the album’s title track, he sings about the “little things” he remembers: “Your silhouette in high-top sneakers/ And hardcore from laptop speakers/ The classics to the more obscure/ From Minor Threat to your old roommate’s band.” The Menzingers’ own magic hour may be behind them, but After The Party still captures something pretty goddamn spectacular.
So here we are. In New York City — i.e., where I am, specifically — it is a truly crisp late-autumn day, almost a preview of winter. It’s a fitting milieu for a new Menzingers song, is it not?
The song in question, “The Freaks,” is a decidedly autumnal piece of music, especially by Menzingers standards; it’s way more Nada Surf than Rancid. It is neither ripping nor riotous. It is nonetheless remarkably catchy and well-written. It provides an answer of sorts to Barnett’s now-19-month-old query, “Where we gonna go now that our twenties are over?” Do we simply pretend that we can build them again? Nah. We’re taking this one straight to the grave, baby. Next stop Willoughby.
Still, the Menzingers are a pretty fantastic companion for a Metro-North express to the terminus, with the Hudson out your left window and an ever-flowing blur of yellow- and orange-leafed trees to your right. Look around. Listen. Enjoy yourself.