I will fight anyone who disagrees ‘After the Party’ is essential listening
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After the Party
The Menzingers, thankfully, aren’t ready to stop the party, or at least they definitely don’t know how to. On the opening track, they admit it outright: “When you gonna quit this nonsense, everyones asking me over and over / but I don’t mind tellin’ lies.” If I didn’t mind telling lies like The Menzingers, I’d tell you this record is not worth a second of your time and keep it all to myself. Fortunately for you, it is my duty to speak the absolute truth, and the truth is The Menzingers have crafted punk rock perfection on After the Party.
The Menzingers and nostalgia are almost synonymous at this point in their career. The skill with which they paint the past across their music has always been a highlight of the band’s attractiveness (see their other flawless record On the Impossible Past for reference). Nostalgia in rock music can easily come off as corny, but The Menzingers understand better than any other artist today how to exploit its power through incredibly diverse songwriting and the lyrical imagery they paint.
On the surface, After the Party is exactly what can be expected from The Menzingers — a rollicking, nostalgia-ridden, booze-soaked record. Yet, on each subsequent listen, I found new, subtle and often beautiful dynamism added to the mix. It took multiple listens for the vocal melody on “House on Fire” to really stand out, and it’s possibly the strongest melody the band has ever written. The band plays with time signatures and tempo, reflected in the beautiful chord progression of the title track, and the staccato strumming implemented in “Bad Catholics.” On “Bars,” the band splits the song into two distinct sections, adding to the songwriting progression that has proven The Menzingers absolute masters at their craft.
However, The Menzingers haven’t abandoned their roots. The record opens with anthems “20’s (Tellin’ Lies)” and recently dropped single “Thick as Thieves” that are classical Menzingers’ jams. The songs also showcase the band’s expert lyricism. “Building castles with cans and bottles / drinking like they do in novels,” on “Thick as Thieves” paints the past in fantasy, finding solace in the fortress of youthful camaraderie while drinking like your favorite troubled character from your favorite novel. The album does a wonderful job blurring fact and fiction within each story point, much like we do with our own pasts. After the Party gives a holistic view of surviving your twenties, mostly under the influence of hanging with friends, alone at the bar or while touring the country. It’s a fantastical love letter to human survival and natural resistance to the non-fictionality of the real world.
The Menzingers have written a beautiful story with After the Party, one about surviving your youth, and ultimately hitting the supposed “start of life” of your thirties. Each song embodies different emotions within the process, sometimes involving straightforward narrative and other times exploding with metaphorical feeling. The anthemic “Charlie’s Army” adds melodrama to dealing with a lover’s vengeful ex (named Charlie) who has sent his army after our protagonist, fearless and madly in love — because honestly who doesn’t need more melodrama to spice up their past? “Black Mass” slows down the rock ‘n’ roll for a more folky sound, expanding on dealing with death within a specific funeral setting: “The view from here to there is a lot like wilting flowers / bored beyond repair and unfit for an altar / strange relating with the Lamb to the Slaughter.” Every track has something poignant and thought-provoking for young adulthood, still growing up in today’s world and resisting change at every possible moment.
In its entirety, After the Party is a triumph of existentialism. Existing in your twenties; existing in love, heartbreak and loss; existing in the party of life, and then figuring out how to exist after the party is over. The Menzingers have once again crafted an album that is entirely timeless, and it’s an album that I have no doubt will stick with me and countless others for years, if not decades. If you need any incentive to believe me, The Menzingers were gracious enough to bless the world early with singles “After the Party,” “Bad Catholics” and “Lookers.” This is more of a demand than a request: listen to After the Party — it’s essential.