21st April | The Bierkeller
Every recent review of The Menzingers’ live show and their most recent album, After the Party, focuses on one thing: They’re over thirty.
The chorus to the opening track of their live set and After the Party, ‘Tellin’ Lies’, rings out with the line ‘What we gonna do now that our twenties are over’, but the deeper into their set they played and the farther back they reached into extensive, five album catalog, the more incredibly frustrating this observation became.
A hallmark of the band’s career has been their talent for blending the fleeting and immediate past with the terrifyingly inevitable and imminent future. By explicitly referencing their age in the opening track ‘Tellin’ Lies’, it has become all to easy to single out this records as defining of a band that performs with a vigour not found any more in rock music.
The Menzingers whip their crowds into a beer swilled frenzy with lyrics of imminent nostalgia, shout along choruses and a blend of punk and rock guitar melodies that define evenings filled with dive bar sweat and hazy reminiscence, both for the band and the audience. On this occasion the band fondly recounted their previous Bristol shows, like a 2011 gig at the now closed venue, The Croft, during the infamous Tesco protests.
The assumption that their current age and situation defines their sound overlooks their previous records, especially the 2012 album, On the Impossible Past, considered one of the best rock records of that year. ‘The Obituaries’ felt like strange reflection on events in your life might not have the meaning you thought or that they didn’t even occur as you remember. Similarly, with ‘Good Things,’ the experiences of ‘[Taking] rides in your American muscle car’ and ‘[Feeling] American for once’ are brief and fleeting, but don’t make you nostalgic, just confused as to whether you’re supposed to be experiencing this maxim of culture.
On ‘I Don’t Wanna be an Asshole Anymore’, the single from the 2014 record, Rent World, The Menzingers buck from the traditional rock trend of contemplating what went wrong in a relationship and bluntly confess that it was unquestionably them. As singer and guitarist Greg Barnett pleaded with the songs subject, ‘I’ll be good to you/I’ll be good’, the crowd clamoured forward to shout in agreement about their past, present and future faults.
With all of the shouts and chorus from Barnett and fellow vocalist, Tom May, the most poignant moment was during the title track of After the Party, where the song recounts images and moments of two people together, but they are all seen as temporary as the last lines of the chorus bring the listener crashing back to the present as they sing ‘But after the party/It’s me and you’.
In the end, while the temporal elephant in the room is a theme of the band’s sound, to fix focus on The Menzingers as a ‘post-30 punk band’ is to assume that their relevance has passed and that they are fighting to stay in the scene, but this couldn’t be further from reality.
Check out ‘After The Party’ below.