[24 April 2014]
The Menzingers are having something of a moment. After 2012’s On the Impossible Past caught the crest of a melodic-punk wave spearheaded by bands like Titus Andronicus, this tiny Philly-based, Scranton-spawned band traveled the world, bringing its shouty brand of guitar music to audiences far and wide. Therefore one is tempted to listen to Rented World, their newest, in light of this history, and especially as compared to Impossible Past. But comparisons are odious, and Rented World must be taken as it is: a catchy, huge-sounding rock album that strikes one as curiously old-fashioned, but not in a classically-derivative way. It’s a blast.
“I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore” is as good a place to start with the Menzingers as any. An arena-rock guitar figure rockets out of the speakers, followed by palm-muted chords and finally a massive “Woah-oh-oh-oh” chorus. There are some bleeding-heart teenage lyrics, and Tom May screams out his vocal chords. It’s not a huge step to picture a mosh pit, some dude in jean shorts leaping off the stage and crashing down onto the head of a girl with very straight bangs. To say this is nothing new would be, itself, nothing new, but that denies the appeal of music like this, which, by virtue of its familiarity, plumbs emotional depths and achieves frequent catharsis.
Other tracks like “The Talk” and “My Friend Kyle (PDC)” follow a similar route, with walls of multi-tracked guitar courtesy of producer Jonathan Low, who lends the rocking tracks a bludgeoning quality, like a wall of Marshall half-stacks turned up to 10. This sometimes has the quality of deflating the quieter tracks, pushing all songs to similar conclusions even when they start out differently. Highlights “Nothing Feels Good Anymore” and “Hearts Unknown” are at their best when the band allows the nuances to seep out, choosing space over screaming catharsis. May begins “Nothing” all by himself, and the band would have been wise to let him stay there a bit longer. On repeat listens the tendency toward explosions drowns out moments of calm, and a solid album needs both.
For the most part, Rented World balances it. First single “In Remission” feels like classic Epitaph material, marrying an honest-to-god riff to an endlessly repeatable chorus of “If everyone needs a crutch then I need a wheelchair”, even finding time to fit in a breakdown and buildup. It’s a muscular song, ditching the occasional scrappy amateurisms of Impossible Past for something full-throated and ready for large audiences. It’s driving-around-with-the-windows-down music, ready for maximum blasting. To achieve this aim the band ditched some of it’s more songwriterly elements, but for what it is, Rented World slays.