Album Review: The Menzingers - 'On The Impossible Past'

14 March 2012 | 10:39 pm | Staff Writer
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Handpicked for Epitaph by Brett Gurewitz himself, Pennsylvania’s The Menzingers buck recent trends of younger punk bands playing hardcore-infused neo-emo. No pining for Jawbreaker’s guitar tone or the apathetic lyricism of Texas Is The Reason here – this is good old-fashioned punk rock. 2007’s debut “A Lesson in The Abuse of Information Technology” gave The Menzingers a name for gritty, straight up and down American punk rock. Released three years later, “Chamberlain Waits” was a slicker, more accessible offering, and “On The Impossible Past” is yet another step in that direction. The lyrics of twin vocalists Tom May and Greg Barnett haven’t lost an inch in their sincerity or humour, while the lush, melodic riffs of tracks like “Time Tables” or “I Was Born” from its predecessor are even more prevalent on album number three.

The album begins on a high note with the punchy “Good Things”, as May and Barnett question “why all good things should fall apart”. True to its name, the theme of nostalgia and pining for the past recurs throughout “On The Impossible Past”, from the jangly, 80s-style guitars of tracks like “Gates” to repeated references to an American muscle car. The title track, something of an intro to “Nice Things”, feels like an ode to youth and long-lost love, while “Mexican Guitars” is dedicated to “an old friend / the kind I could confide in”. But “On The Impossible Past” isn’t as mooshy as it sounds on paper. The Menzingers don’t betray the rougher style of their earlier material as there are plenty of hard-hitting moments, from harsh vocals in “Good Things” to a bassy, soulfully delivered chorus in “I Can’t Seem To Tell”. These are, however, seamlessly coupled with delicious melodic guitar hooks, particularly those on the aforementioned track and “Burn After Writing”.

The Menzingers’ third full-length offering is a triumph. A cleverly executed and poetic punk album, “On The Impossible Past” is this band’s most honest, listenable and fully-realised work yet. After listening to this record, it isn’t too bold a statement to say that this band is playing some of the best music in the punk rock genre right now.

1. Good Things
2. Burn After Writing
3. The Obituaries
4. Gates
5. Ava House
6. Sun Hotel
7. Sculptors And Vandals
8. Mexican Guitars
9. On The Impossible Past
10. Nice Things
11. Casey
12. I Can't Seem To Tell
13. Freedom Bridge
14. Great Apes and Shiny Stones (Bonus Track)