The Menzingers

Rented World

Written by: PP on 23/03/2014 18:33:12

The problem with releasing a universally acclaimed breakthrough record like "On The Impossible Past" is how to write another one like it. The most obvious choice would be to simply repeat the album and hope for the best, but considering how far outside of its comfort zone The Menzingers took punk rock on that record, that was never going to be the case with "Rented World". Instead, what is arguably the most anticipated record in the genre this year plays on the strengths of its predecessor while adjusting the direction of the band somewhat. Fans hoping for a return to the raw screaming and gang shouts of "Chamberlain Waits" or the debut album will be sorely disappointed, as new engineer Jonathan Low introduces Americana influence on the record stemming from his work with The National and Kurt Vile among others. It was a conscious choice for the band to go with a producer that isn't accustomed to working with punk rock to continue their evolution as musicians and songwriters, and as a result there are undertones of Gaslight Anthem and Bruce Springsteen embedded within the songs.

This is most obvious on "Transient Love", a slower track which contains a modern Americana vibe to its guitar tone that echoes influence from Springsteen's foundation, while simultaneously delving deep into the world of bittersweet nostalgia we remember from the previous album. But this is also the case from a more general point of view: The songs explore larger soundscapes that are inevitably influenced by the far bigger venues the band has been playing in the past 12 months - they are simply written for larger stages and with more ambition in their songwriting than in the past.

That being said, these are merely new influences merging together with old ones, so older fans need not to worry. "Rented World" is merely the next step in the path started with "On The Impossible Past" in an evolution that is taking the band away from the raging screams of their older material and toward a more mature, melodic, alternative rock-rooted expression. There is significantly more pop in the vocal lines and especially the guitars (see: "Bad Things" as an example), which requires some getting used to in the beginning but works almost equally well in the end. The fiery moments where clean vocals break into the raw screams were the highlight sections of the previous album, those are still present with great timing, but they are often contrasted by lighter and slower songwriting than in the past. A good example is "Where Your Heartache Exists". Here, a slow tempo and softly crooned vocals dominate the first half of the song, but once we pass the halfway mark, it has quietly progressed into a point where it simply makes sense for the pure clean vocals to break into the trademark gravelly yells that we've all grown to love and cherish.

The first three tracks on the record on the other hand are as quintessential Menzingers as they get. "I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore" is upbeat and shouty, with anthemic guitars and a catchy chorus to drive it home. "Bad Things" again starts quietly, but finishes off into an infectious sing along section with great lyrics for you to shout along to: "don't wait up for me my friend, I've been planning to watch the world burn down. All your friends are dead and gone." "Rodent" is probably the highlight of the album because of the explosive nature that it opens with and the big woo-hoo style backing vocals that are sure to echo loudly on the main stage at Groezrock in a couple of months. Lyrically, this song is another masterpiece as well. Later on, "My Friend Kyle" is another upbeat track, but here you can feel the addition of the pop element far more than in the past. What's more worrying is that the guitars sound a little weird/sloppy in the mix, but this could simply be the super-advance copy that was sent to us, so I'll let it slide. "The Talk" follows with another fiery and rowdy expression in what is probably the fastest track on the record. If you were missing the punk rock element in Menzingers, this one is going to make older fans happy for sure. And is it a surprise that a song called "Nothing Feels Good Anymore" is one of those songs that is going to go down as a classic Menzingers scream along? The lyricism will hit spot on for many broken people - the repeated "Nothing feels gooood anymooore" lines are back-chilling and make you want to scream along from the get go.

And of course, you have to mention "In Remission", which is an instant classic. It's one of those tracks where the band takes their sweet time in the beginning, but as the song progresses, it gets louder and screamier and finishes in infectiously catchy "if everyone needs a crutch, then I need a wheelchair, I need a reason to reason with you, oh yeaaaaaaaaah" screams.

Overall, the verdict is clear. With "Rented World", The Menzingers have released another genre classic. But it isn't quite as good as "On The Impossible Past". There are a few tracks that go right into the 'best Menzingers songs ever' category, but also a couple of question marks that will be interesting to monitor in terms of fan reaction to them. It's not that they are duds - The Menzingers are too consistent songwriters for that - but they aren't the ones we'll be singing along at the shows, let's just put it that way. The producer choice is slightly odd and Matt Allison (who produced the previous record) would've been in my opinion a better choice, since that record managed a perfect balance between a raw sound and sharp clarity. Here, the line is more blurry as Low pushes the band toward a more mainstream direction, probably because he is not familiar with the dynamics that the punk rock scene values versus those that his Americana-styled bands do instead. But with all that being said, there are some incredible tracks on "Rented World" that will establish it on many end-of-year lists come December.

Download: I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore, In Remission, Bad Things, Rodent,
For the fans of: Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem, The Holy Mess
Listen: Facebook

Release date 22.04.2014
Epitaph

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