Pop-punk has always been a genre with youth at its heart. Forget the grizzled, cider-stained politics of its parent, for many growing up, its lyrics and upbeat melodies were a direct form of catharsis, providing the soundtrack to an adolescence populated by underage drinking and make-ups and break-ups, all while managing to articulate the heightened teenage emotions felt by its fans. But what happens when those fans — and indeed those bands — succumb to the inevitable and start to get older?
Now approaching their thirties, ‘After The Party’ is The Menzingers’ fifth full-length and is a record hinged on blue collar romanticism, and finding the perfect balance between growing up and getting older. Neither an ode to hedonism nor a bitter retrospective, it’s an accurate reflection of where exactly the band, and their audience, are at in their lives.
While The Menzingers have always had the ability to paint pictures of a quintessential American youth, it seems with ‘After The Party’ such narratives come from a more sincere, introspective position; the likes of ‘Midwestern States’ and ‘Bad Catholics’ in particular invoking waves of nostalgia for memories you never had, of places you’ve never been.
It’s not all church picnics and lost loves, however. Rip-roaring opener, ‘20s (Tellin’ Lies)’ asks the question: “Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?”, establishing the record’s overarching tone and reaffirming the doubts faced by 20-somethings universally. Elsewhere, alcohol features as prominently as one might expect from a punk band coming to terms with getting older. ‘Thick As Thieves’ romantically recounts the band’s drunken exploits, while the title track feels somewhat more personal, though no less wistful. Likewise, the aptly-titled ‘Bars’ sees the band exploring new sonic territory with its drunken, shanty-like delivery, though its romantic views of a youth misspent are in perfect keeping with the rest of the record.
While nostalgia does play a prominent role in ‘After The Party’, the record manages to avoid getting bogged down in it thanks to its ability to keep one eye looking forward. “We’re turning 30 now, and there’s this idea that that’s when real life comes on,” says guitarist/vocalist Tom May, and though “real life” might fast be approaching, it seems The Menzingers are showing little sign of slowing down. Maybe we’ll keep the party going just a little bit longer.
Words: Dave Beech
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