Music Reviews
After the Party

The Menzingers After the Party

(Epitaph) Rating - 6/10

At what point does dependability become a setback in a band’s career? For a good decade, Scranton, Pennsylvania foursome The Menzingers have been serving as a symbol of sanguine modern pop-punk that transcends any generational ticking clock. Their likable anthems are a winning recipe for longstanding labels like Epitaph, who’ve continued to champion different variations of the rock persuasion with a clearly defined, not to mention communal, sound.

Now, that’s not to say that The Menzingers stand at a point in their career where they’re too fretful about covering up their receding hairlines. Though as they welcome the early thirties, there’s a certain adherence to changing things up musically with their fifth effort, After the Party. As you’d expect from a band that celebrates life’s small, but significant rituals, the album heartily considers the complexities of growing up; doing what you love while sticking to your convictions, though not without conceding to life’s trials. And when life gets too tough then it’s time to keep on driving.

This could imply that The Menzingers are going through a maturation of sorts, though from a thematic standpoint, it’s safe to say that they’ve been alluding to this direction as far as the twinkling melancholia of On the Impossible Past. Instead, now they show more grit: "Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?," repeats a gruff Greg Barnett with fiery insistence, and it seems the answer to that question is to play elaborate guitar riffs with a primal hard rock edge. It’s an apt precedent to tracks like Thick as Thieves and The Bars, which both allude to the liberating escapism of alcohol to temporarily soothe life’s stresses.

But despite some of the band’s most spirited songs to date, there’s also a good handful that follow a more typical, meat-and-potatoes template. The catchy Lookers doesn’t really offer a memorable hook, though to its credit, it should bring out a smile to punk nostalgics who like their commonplace lines about suburbia and the good ol’ days with a simplistic three-chord approach. Most of these are stories that are literal to a fault, like on Midwestern States, which narrates a vivid conversation between a couple who’s on a cross country trip to nowhere. The message sure is relatable, and does provide a tough look into what it is to be young and hopeless in today’s job market, but it also leaves very little to imagine or assume.

Ultimately, it’s disappointing to see how The Menzingers are continuing an unremarkable plan of action when they should be challenging themselves even further. It sounds like they have a formula they've perfected with foolproof durability, and producer Will Yip does a great job at placing melody and emotion right at the forefront. But even if they play it too straight, there’s songs like Livin’ Ain’t Easy where they ditch the album’s rhythmic redundancies and finish with wistful poignancy. It’s just enough to believe they’ll try something more bold with their future.