For those of you unfamiliar, The Menzingers are a melodic indie punk band from Pennsylvania. My opinion of them after hearing their previous record was that they were a very skilled band with a incredible gift for story telling through song, but they weren't quite at that level of greatness that I thought they may reach some day. That day has come in the form of their newest offering, On The Impossible Past.
"I've been having a horrible time pulling myself together. I've been closing my eyes to find why all good things should fall apart."
This is a line from On The Impossible Past's opening track "Good Things" as well as a sentiment that I think anyone reading this review can relate to. Everyone has reached that moment in their life when they felt like things were spinning out of control and that nothing gold can stay. If you haven't, congratulations on living a charmed life... but your day will come too.
This record strikes many different chords throughout its 40+ minute span. Some of which inspire hope, while others project a lack of faith in themselves. Whether positive or negative, every line on this album is passionate and came from a very real place inspired by a moment in time profound enough to make pen meet paper. It isn't often that a lyricist can make you feel what they felt at the moment they were driven to write their songs. I genuinely feel that with this record and it is without a doubt their strongest trait. I don't want to imply that this was a missing piece to their previous works, it just wasn't nearly as refined.
Being that this is their first release with punk rock juggernaut Epitaph Records, I almost assumed that there would be a slick gloss slathered all over the sound that they had already crafted for themselves but that isn't the case at all. In fact, the production is stellar. As for the individual aspects of this release, the musicianship as a whole is very organic. Each instrument has its place in the mix and never steps on the toes of any other instrument. The guitars roar when pushed and they also hang back to let the vocals take the drivers seat when warranted. I attribute this to thoughtful and intelligent songwriting as well as a skilled engineer/producer behind the boards. The drums and bass don't offer anything flashy, but are rock solid throughout every track.
The personal and introspective nature of the lyrics on this album have already been covered in this review, but there is more to it than that. The performance itself is very unique. While mostly smooth, the vocals sometimes are pushed to a shout and another trademark sound of the Menzingers is the tasteful use of vibrato in the delivery. This is a unique quality that really makes this band stand out from the herd of other melodic punk bands that are out today.
The bottom line is that this record is an early contender for Album of the Year, in my eyes. It is easily the best punk/indie record I've heard so far this year and while there are a few releases on the horizon that have the potential to give On The Impossible Past a run for its money, I am fairly confident it will still be at the top of the heap come the end of 2012.
Highlight track: Mexican Guitars