Monthly Archives: April 2014

Band Reunions: Is The Craze Here To Stay?

By Vasilis

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As passionate music fans, there are few things we dread more than the announcement that one of our favorite bands is calling it quits. It is a not-so-subtle reminder that nothing lasts forever and a moment that brings both sadness and reflection. Break-ups in the music world, like in real life, come in all shapes and sizes: there are bitter conflict-filled break-ups, friendly mutual break-ups, and some from bands that just agree their music has run its course and decide to go out on top. Some come as a surprise while others blindside the music world. There is usually a message thanking the fans before the band fades out and leaves everyone to ask “what’s next” for the members and this can often lead to discussions of the music’s legacy and place in history.

It’s only natural that music fans tend to experience the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) following a split. Bands can feel like a part of our family and some have profound emotional effects on us. Knowing that you will never get to hear a new song or see that band live is a painful realization that slowly dulls over time. However, the acceptance stage is quickly becoming a thing of the past as more and more bands are turning to reunions. As a result, fans have begun treating a hiatus or a break-up as a mere inconvenience that they will have to endure for a short period of time until the band decides, for whatever reason, to come back. Reunions can come about because of a genuine desire to recapture past glory, a yearning to reconnect with fans, or, more cynically, a desire to cash in on past success and a reemergence of the group’s status with fans. However, fans rarely care and are just happy to have their favorite bands back in their lives again.

The scene has been a hotbed of reunions as of late, as groups like Yellowcard, The Starting Line, The Get Up Kids, The Early November, and countless others have “gotten the band back together” to celebrate the anniversary of a classic album, release new material, or go on a short tour before returning back to the ranks of the broken up. Many of these bands announced their break-ups within the past half-decade, and the term “hiatus” has been used more prevalently to soften the blow and leave the door open for a return. The two biggest reunions belong to Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy, bands many believed were done for good. While not every reunion has been celebrated or met with unbridled enthusiasm, the comebacks have been treated well by fans and have shown other groups that an official break-up announcement doesn’t have to be the end and has only served to encourage bands to reform.

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This year has already seen its fair share of unlikely reunions. Pop punk favorites Midtown announced they would be performing at this year’s Skate & Surf Festival, their first show since calling it quits in 2005. Following the success of Cobra Starship, many figured Gabe Saporta would have no interest in reuniting his old band (in which he played bass and sang). Outkast, the hip hop duo behind the hit song “Hey Ya”, has made their way around various festivals as part of their much-publicized reunion. Strangest of all is the unusual Nirvana Brooklyn performances, in celebration of the group’s 2014 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which featured Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, and an assortment of guest vocalists, including Joan Jett and Lorde, stepping in for the late Kurt Cobain.

Then this week, influential emo bands American Football and Mineral announced their respective reunions. American Football released their self-titled EP and LP in 1999, their only recorded pieces of music, but their plans to re-release their music in a 2xLP collection set through Polyvynl Records led the band to announce shows in Chicago and New York City. Following this announcing, Mineral, who released their albums in 1997 and 1998 and have not played a show in 17 years, announced a short tour with emo band Into It. Over It. Their reunions were met with intense interest despite the long time away. These announcements give fans who were not old enough in the 90’s a chance to see a band they never thought they would be able to and can even lead to new songs or old recordings being uncovered and released.

Still, it’s fair to ask “is a reunion really necessary”. Can a reunion actually harm a band’s legacy? A failed return with bad songs or weak, uninspired performances can taint the image a band may have previously held. American Football has always been the musical version of “Freaks & Geeks” to me. Their one album, like the cult classic’s beloved lone season, felt like a moment in time that was pure because it never went stale and never overstayed its welcome. Without a second season, Freaks & Geeks never had the opportunity to go downhill or ruin the greatness of its first season. American Football’s legacy has remained pristine because their Self-Titled album has built their legacy and kept it going. The constant fear is that successful shows may lead to new music that will seem more like a cash-grab than a genuine, inspired collection of music.

After so much time apart, it’s also fair to question how much the break has affected the group’s chemistry and how the band’s music has held up. Reunions can serve as a good litmus test to see where the music actually stands. While some choose to look down at reunions and criticize bands who don’t know when to say when, the facts show that reunions are generally pretty successful. Midtown and Outkast’s festival reunions have both been met with positivity, while both American Football and Mineral sold out their shows so quickly they had to resort to adding more. The New York City Saturday show and subsequent Friday show crashed Ticketweb because of the volume of visitors, causing a social media uproar and leading many frustrated fans to lament losing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The band went on to add a third Webster Hall show that Sunday, meaning that the band will have sold over 4,200 tickets when all is said and done.

The reunion craze has been booming because nostalgia is in such high demand. Now more than ever, we are engulfed by nostalgia, and bands are seizing the opportunity and they themselves are being subjected to these memories of the great times they with their bands. What ultimately attracts us to reunions is that they transport us back in time and elicit powerful memories. By going to see a band like Blink-182 perform, we remember that feeling of listening to them in the early 90’s and early 2000’s (whether you were in middle school, high school, or college) and it brings back these feelings. And this is not unique to the punk scene; classic rock legends like Led Zeppelin and Van Halen reunited in the 2000’s after over 20 years apart to play shows. Boy bands like Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block have gone on reunion tours, while N Sync and Destiny’s Child have taken the stage briefly to perform together. With so many groups nobody ever saw getting back together now reuniting, the possibilities are endless. Beloved broken up bands from Jawbreaker to Husker Du to The Replacements to The Smiths (though Morrissey has rejected this notion entirely) may one day perform again.

Reunions are never going to please everybody. For every fan that is thrilled to see their favorite group reform, there’s one that wants to remember the band for what they are and avoid seeing them tarnish their legacy. So the question to be asked is: when is enough enough? Is it okay for a band that has been gone for three or four years to come back? Should a band that’s been gone for more than 10 years stay away to preserve their legacy? In the case of American Football and Mineral, we won’t know the answer until they play their shows. But one thing is for sure: the reunion craze is not going away. For better or for worse, they remain extremely profitable and a big hit among fans. While some remain critical, crowds come out in droves, buy the new and the old albums, and celebrate the return of their favorite band. The great thing is that those who are happy to see the band reunite can embrace it, while the more jaded fan who wishes those bands stayed away can just ignore it and live in ignorant bliss while holding on to their memories. In this scenario, it’s a win-win for everyone, so there’s no harm in a band wanting to take a stroll down memory lane as long as they do it right.

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“Heart’s on Fire” – Passenger

Though many live versions of this song exist as collaborations with other artists, including Ed Sheeran and Stu Larsen, the (solo) album version of this song is my favorite by far. The addition of strings and background vocals compliment the simple melody without overwhelming it. It’s an honest love song and it might be mellow but it’s certainly compelling and I can’t seem to stop listening to it.

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April 28, 2014 · 2:51 pm

First Impressions: Andrew Jackson Jihad

By Cherie

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For this weeks First Impressions I was given a band I’d heard a lot about, but never had the time to actually listen to; Andrew Jackson Jihad. The band first surfaced on my radar when they were touring with Frank Turner, who has a history of taking his favorite bands on tour with him. Since I usually end up liking those bands, I made a note of the bands name with the intention of looking them up at a later date. When Vas suggested the band for this weeks First Impressions column I was thrilled to finally get an excuse to sit down and listen to them. Andrew Jackson Jihad are often described as a “folk-punk” band from Arizona, and I have to admit that I have never before come across that particular genre of music. So all in all I was excited to dive into the three songs I was given.

 

The first song that I was given to listen to was “People” off of their 2007 album, People Who Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World, and as soon as it started playing I had to wonder if I was given it because of the banjo. The song has a very DIY sound to it; it’s not bad quality but it sounds like it has been recorded in one take and not brushed up or polished in any way. And that’s a sound I quite like overall because to me its more honest. The singer reminded me of John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats a little, based on his delivery and his overall sound. The lyrics made me laugh a little because there’s an obvious dichotomy in what they say. On the one hand people are great and fantastic, but on the other they are horrible and hateful. As someone who works with the general public on a daily basis that love/hate relationship towards my fellow man is something I can relate to wholeheartedly. But overall I loved the message of the song and think that everyone can relate to the lyrics. “I have faith in my fellow man / and I only hope that he has faith in me” the song concludes.

 

The second song, “Hate, Rain on Me” is off their album Knife Man, and it shows a clear progression in sound from the previous song. This song has a full band, whereas the other was more acoustic. It still has a rough around the edges feel to it, but that only adds a sense of character to their sound. If it was too polished it wouldn’t be folk-punk. Again, I loved the lyrics of this song. The lyrics might not be poetic or even particularly deep, but they strike a chord with me because they are so honest and introspective. There’s no glossing over of faults, no sense of “she’s wrong for leaving me or not loving me.” Instead the lyrics reveal the truth, even when it’s less than flattering. “I’ve gotta get out of my skin but I don’t know where I begin / and right now I feel worthless and I feel lazy” they bluntly state. Not everyone has their life completely together and sometimes that process is harder than we imagine but its nice to see a band that doesn’t try to act like they aren’t human and struggling with things just like everyone else. Not all of life problems are about “getting the girl/boy”. Sometimes its as simple as admitting “I want to give a shit again.”

 

Out of the three songs I was given, the only one I wasn’t instantly won over by was the third, “Linda Ronstadt” off of the band’s upcoming album, Christmas Island. After looking up the name I realized that Linda Ronstadt is, apparently, an 11 time Grammy winner who was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame this month. I’d never heard of her before now, but clearly she was a very influential woman. Musically the song is different from the first two, though it has more in common with the second song in that it’s slightly rough around the edges. Lyrically its much the same as the previous two. “I almost made it through a year of choking down my fears,” the song proclaims before going on to add “but they’re gone for now / all thanks to Linda Rondstadt.” The song is about how seeing a piece of modern art affected the lyricist, and I think that that, at its core, is really the point of art after all. Art is, in many ways a reflection of ourselves, and seeing art that is created by someone other than ourselves but still being able to have an emotional connection to it is a beautiful thing. That’s part of the reason why I love music so much. Music expresses the thoughts and feelings I have every waking moment of every day, though I didn’t write the lyrics and songs myself. To quote the great Frank Turner himself: “I still believe that everyone can find a song for every time they’ve lost and every time they’ve won.”

Overall I really enjoyed the songs that I heard. I think I’ll definitely keep listening to the band; they have a decent size back catalog that I look forward to exploring, and their fanbase seems really passionate. I was won over by the bands honest lyrics and folk-punk sense of enthusiasm.

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The Box Tiger at The Press Room, 4-13-14

By Cherie

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There’s nothing I like more then getting to see a band before they become really popular. I’m sure that some of the people reading this are already rolling their eyes and, especially if they know me, (fondly) calling me a hipster. But there’s a good reason for me saying that. The truth is that seeing a band perform on a smaller stage really gives you a chance to see what they are really made of. If a band is still playing small pubs or venues with a couple hundred capacity, take note on how they conduct themselves. Those shows are probably the least glamorous shows they’ll ever play. Smaller venues might not have the best acoustics, and there’s probably no audio technicians to make sure the band sounds their absolute best. Sound checks are relatively short, rushed affairs, undertaken to make sure all the strings still work and are relatively in tune or that the drum kit is assembled correctly. The shows might not sell out and the crowd might be disinterested or at least disengaged. That is the moment when you see what the band is truly made of and how much they are committed to what they do by how they conduct themselves.

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For a young band that is starting to make a name for themselves, Toronto/Portland ME based indie rock band The Box Tiger is poised for success. Though they’ve recently been opening up for increasingly popular bands such as Frank Turner, Metric, and Foster the People, the band takes all their shows seriously; even when its a small headlining show at a pub in Portsmouth, NH. The band came into town on April 13th, playing at show at the Press Room which brought an end to an April tour that took them all the way down to New Orleans before once more making their way north. The band made sure to hang out and talk to friends and new fans alike both before and after their set. Though somewhat shy and quiet in person, singer Sonia Sturino put on a captivating performance during the band’s short but energetic set. Her vocals at times skirt the edges of wild but they merely add an extra layer of indie rock power to her performance.

 

Long story short, this is a fantastic band that is only going to continue to get better as time goes on. Do yourself a favor and check them out now, while they still have a small but loyal fanbase, and try to see them if they play a show near year. Someday when they are selling out headlining shows at much bigger venues you can drag your friends along to their show and reminisce fondly “I remember when they were still playing free shows…”

 

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The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation Tour, April 17 2014

by Vasilis

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New York City… goddamn… is it good to be back”. Wonder Years Vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell proclaimed this over a visible grin following the wild and energetic start of the band’s 90 minute set at The Best Buy Theater on Thursday, April 17. The excitement and awe was clear in Dan’s sweat-soaked face and in his voice; just a few short years ago, the band was playing to a handful of kids in basements, VFW halls, and small clubs around the New York City and Long Island areas. On this Thursday night, they were playing in front of 2,000 crazed fans in the heart of Times Square at a show that sold out over two months in advance. To mark this special occasion, the band brought along a veritable “who’s who” of trending and popular bands in the scene, helping the show become one of the most anticipated tours of the spring.

Upstart emo band Modern Baseball took the stage at 6:30, and it was clear this was no ordinary opening slot. Whereas most openers are met with polite applause, head bobbing, and toe tapping, the crowd surged forward when Modern Baseball took the stage and sang along to every word. The band ripped through a 7-song set, which mostly consisted of wacky banter and songs from their stellar new album You’re Gonna Miss It All. The band’s youthful exuberance shined throughout their set and they seemed genuinely enthused to be playing music together. The band has been steadily gaining steam since the release of their 2012 debut album SPORTS, and if this performance is any indication, their stock will only continue to grow.

Setlist:

Tears Over Beers

Broken Cash Machine

Rock Bottom

Charlie Black

Two Good Things

The Weekend

Your Graduation

 

Popular pop punk band Real Friends took the stage next to much fanfare from the young audience. Much like when The Story So Far held the second slot on the last Wonder Years 5-band headlining tour (The 2012 Glamour Kills Tour), Real Friends received the largest reaction next to the headliner. The band’s detractors have criticized their lack of creativity and have labeled them a comical stereotype, but you would not have known the hate existed from the crowd’s intensity. They made the most of their 30-minute set, powering through 9 songs spanning their 3 EPs. Vocalist Dan Lambton even poked fun at pop punk conventions when chants of “pizza!” began, saying the band doesn’t approve of the association between pizza and pop punk. The love they received is especially impressive because they have not released a full-length album, but chances are when their debut drops this fall on Fearless Records, their popularity will increase even more.

 

Setlist:

Floorboards

Alexander Supertramp

Skin Deep

Lost Boy

Anchor Down

Dirty Water

Home For Fall

I’ve Given Up On You

Late Nights In My Car

 

Citizen followed and switched up the pace, performing a heavier, grunge-influenced style of music. Though Citizen began as a pop punk band, they have shed that label with resounding force. Their set consisted of choice cuts from their 2013 debut album Youth along with one older song (“Drown”). While the group may appear out of place on the bill, the crowd loved every minute of their set, and sang along loudly from start to finish, even the slower, moodier songs. The band didn’t say much, only stopping to thank the other bands and the crowd for their support; The group let the music speak for itself, and clearly the crowd was listening and enjoying it.

 

Setlist:

The Night I Drove Alone

Roam the Room

Drown

Sleep

How Does It Feel?

Figure You Out

Speaking With a Ghost

The Summer

 

Fireworks were the last band to take the stage before The Wonder Years, having replaced Defeater (who had to drop off before the tour began when their vocalist fell ill). This is the third time Fireworks have toured with The Wonder Years in the past three years, and their close friendship is well documented. Although their sophomore album Gospel is critically acclaimed and their new release Oh, Common Life was a stellar follow-up, they received a disappointingly lukewarm reaction compared to the openers, despite being the most veteran band on the bill next to the headliners. Still, Fireworks seemed genuinely pleased with the kids who sang along and their infectious enthusiasm was notable over the course of their 11-song set. The crowd showed the most energy when the band finished the night with their classic closer “Detroit”.

 

Setlist:

X’s On Trees

Summer

Glowing Crosses

The Wild Bunch

One More Dizzy Creature With Love

Arrows

Teeth

Flies on Tape

Oh, Why Can’t We Start Old and Get Younger

When We Stand On Each Other We Block Out the Sun

Detroit

 

The Wonder Years finally took the stage at 9:50 to deafening applause and screams from sold-out crowd at Best Buy Theater. They opened the set with the hushed whisper of “There, There”, the first track on their fantastic album The Greatest Generation. The crowd sang along as the song reached a crescendo and exploded into the pure, unfettered emotional climax. From there, the intensity never waned over the course of the night as the band charged through a 16-song set equipped with choice tracks from their last three albums. They had the rare opportunity to play some deep cuts like “Me vs. The Highway” and “Dynamite Shovel” and some new songs like “Raindance in Traffic”, “The Devil in My Bloodstream”, and “Cul-de-Sac”. As always, the group squeezed in the fan-favorites, as “Local Man Ruins Everything”, “Washington Square Park”, and “Passing Through a Screen Doors” inspired the entire audience to jump along, crowd surf, and scream at the top of their lungs.

 

Dan’s on-stage presence felt like a mixture between a preacher and a professional wrestler as his emotions took center stage and his voice fell just short of shouting. Dan spoke about how fans have gone to eat at Melrose Diner after the band released the song, despite the fact that the food is horrible and the service is terrible. He later asked fans who had their album Suburbia, I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing and, upon seeing the entire crowd cheer, said “well, shit then, I guess this song is for all of you”. He chose a more serious and surreal tone when discussing how the band struggled mightily to book a New York show in 2006 (before securing a basement show in Bushwick) and now the band’s faces are plastered on a billboard in Times Square for a sold out show. Dan seemed on the verge of joyful tears as he looked out on to the sea of faces smiling and singing back at him, and for a moment you could see the immeasurable happiness this tour has brought every member of the band. When the band took the stage to close out the show with the epic 7-minute “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral”, which closes out The Greatest Generation, the band left every last bit of energy they had left on the stage, and their fans did the same.

 

The band’s rapid rise in popularity has been a direct result of their sincerity, their tireless work ethic, their down-to-earth demeanor, and most importantly their ability to produce stellar, challenging pop punk music that refuses to conform to conventions and connects deeply with their audience. They have never sounded crisper live, playing through their headlining set with precision and ease. The Wonder Years are still relatively young yet commanded the stage with a veteran presence, and they demonstrated that they are in fact ready for center stage and to take the reins as one of the biggest bands in the scene today. As the American leg of their Greatest Generation tour comes to a close and the band prepares to head to Europe, it’s safe to say that The Wonder Years have a lot left to give.

 

Setlist:

There, There

Passing Through a Screen Door

Local Man Ruins Everything

Woke Up Older

Me vs. The Highway

Melrose Diner

A Raindance in Traffic

Everything I Own Fits In This Backpack

Dynamite Shovel

The Devil in My Bloodstream

Cul-De-Sac

Dismantling Summer

Don’t Let Me Cave In

Washington Square Park

Came Out Swinging

ENCORE:

I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral

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Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything Review

By Cherie

Sometimes in order to fully appreciate an album, you need to shut out the rest of the world and give it your full attention. Before I even listened to this album for the first time, a friend who had already listened to it told me that it was the kind of album that you need to listen to laying on the floor of your room late at night. I’d add that you should also have a bottle of wine with you, but other than that her description was startlingly accurate.

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The Take Off and Landing of Everything is the sixth studio album from British alternative rock band Elbow. The band is no stranger to success; each of their previous five albums have charted in the top 15 on the British album charts. The Take Off and Landing of Everything debuted at #1 on the charts, making it the bands first album to do so (their previous album Build a Rocket Boys! peaked at #2).

 

The band took a slightly different approach to writing this album, working on tracks separately before bringing them to the rest of the band. The clearest and most prevalent theme on the album has to do with getting older and what that means to the band. In referring to the theme of aging in relation to the new album singer and lyricist Guy Garvey told NME: “when you’re 40, you’re all ages at once, because you’re thinking of your youth, which has very definitely passed, and about how you became the person you are. You wonder about how the rest of your life plays out from here.” In the course of writing the album Garvey also broke up with his longtime girlfriend and went back and changed some of the lyrics as a consequence. We can see hints of this breakup scattered throughout the album. Some of them obvious (“I miss loving you” he sings in the titular track) but others are less so (“would that you and yours are sleeping / safe and warm in size formation” he states in “This Blue World”).

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The first single off the album is the track “New York Morning”, and it was written by Garvey at 6am as the city was waking up around him. There’s a sense of wonder and a longing to belong in the lyrics that are typical to anyone who isn’t from the city but has fallen in love with all that it represents. “Me I see a city and I hear a million voices / planning, drilling, welding, carrying their fingers to the nub / reaching down into the ground / stretching up into the sky / why? / because they can” he sings in one of the verses. There’s something about the city that early in the morning when it’s just waking up that is almost mystical in a way and Garvey manages to capture that essence perfectly. In his interview with NME Garvey also stated that another theme present in the album was his “intense love affair with Brooklyn”, and one needs only look as far as this song to see what he is referring to.

 

Flyboy Blue / Lunette” is two songs that have been woven together to produce one cohesive track. Its got a throwback sound to it and is slightly edgier than the first two tracks on the album. The first half of the track features Garvey’s vocals layered over each other to produce an altered and slightly off kilter sound. Horns add a further layer of darkness and discordance to the first half of the track, the feeling of which is summed up perfectly by the lines “my newest friends have forgotten my name / but so have I so far so good and home.” The track then switches gears and the tempo becomes more upbeat while the lyrics become more introspective and personal. “I’m reaching the age where decisions are made on the life and the liver / and I’m sure, last ditch that I’ll ask for more time / but Mother forgive me / still want a bottle of good Irish whiskey / and a bundle of smokes in my grave,” Garvey states, once more touching on the theme of aging that flows through the entire album.

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One would think that the song “The Take Off and Landing of Everything” would be the last track on the album, and not just because it’s the inspiration for the album title. There’s a sense of finality to the song; it fades out after repeating the title line several times. Its like the album is saying goodbye in a way. But its not the end after all, there’s one more track to go. Clocking in at just 4:24, “The Blanket of Night” is the second shortest track on the album but it perfectly sums up the rest of the album. It looks at the past, the present, the future, and even briefly considers what might have been. The metaphor of water as a giver and taker of life is utilized in this track; “the ocean / that bears us from our home / could sail us / or take us far, if so / the danger / that life should lead us here / my angel / could I have steered us clear?” Though the song tells the story of a refugee couple fleeing their homeland, the husbands internal struggles as to whether or he is doing the right thing is a further reflection of the main themes of the album.

 

Some have criticized the band for playing it safe with this album. In the past they’ve experimented with adding various instruments and playing with an orchestral sound, but this album is much more traditional in sound. However, I would argue that perhaps that is exactly why the album shines. The band goes back to their roots sound wise and adapts something of a minimalist sound for many of the tracks. Garvey’s voice is soothing and carries the listener through the ups and downs of the album effortlessly. The Take Off and Landing of Everything is an meticulously crafted album, showing that the band has merely perfected their trade over the course of six studio albums. Its easy to see that the band is at the top of their game, and since they seem to only get better with time, I’m excited to see what they do next to capitalize on this success.

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The Menzingers – Rented World Review

by Vasilis

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At what point does a band’s body of work become so impressive that you have to begin looking at them as one of the best in their genre? How many acclaimed albums does a band have to release before it becomes unsurprising and expected? While both questions are arbitrary and subjective, The Menzingers are a band worthy of such high praise. Their debut, A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology, expertly wove together elements of folk, punk, and hardcore to form a raw album that was a lot of fun to listen to. Chamberlain Waits was the complete opposite of a sophomore slump, a punchy piece of punk rock music that wowed with its simplicity and straightforward urgency.

Then came On The Impossible Past. The cohesive, larger-than-life album took the scene by storm and became a staple at the top of many “best of” lists at the end of 2012. The album was awe-inspiring, a romanticized ode to the simple things the band held dear like their favorite coffee shop diners, drinking and getting high, and American muscle cars. The album was rife with nostalgia, an unexpected masterpiece that has since become their magnum opus and put them on more people’s maps. Following up their third album is a tall task, something vocalist/guitarist Greg Barnett admits was a concern in an interview with Exclaim! Magazine. However, if you’re worried the pressure may have broken the band down, Greg alleviates those fears by proclaiming, “The only care was that the songs would mean as much to people as they did on the last record, but we were confident that we were onto something good.”

That “something good” is the band’s fourth studio release, Rented World (out on April 22), a brazen and unapologetic look at the world through the eyes of four guys who are trying to make sense of life. The album includes 12 songs teeming with bravado that explore everything going on in their lives, taking you through every emotional peak and valley with pristine precision. The vocals are noticeably more polished than in the past but still boast a harsh and scathing bite. The guitars, bass, and drums are each more refined thanks in part to the group’s maturation as musicians and the glossy production. The music kicks off from the get-go with the adrenaline-charged “I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore”, a stirring self-examination of past failures and transgressions. Greg wails, “I won’t lie no more about where I’ve been/And I won’t pry no more over the people that you’re hanging with/You’re the only lover that I ever miss/And I’ve been hopelessly in love with/Look at this tangle of thorns/I don’t wanna be an asshole anymore,” lyrics that feel sincere and bold. The sing-a-long chorus begs “baby baby I’ll be good to you, I don’t wanna be an asshole anymore”, driving the song and lodging deeper into your head with each listen.

 

Fans worried about the band sacrificing their edge for a glossier sound have absolutely nothing to worry about. Building off the boisterous opener, the band churns out rowdy and relatable punk songs with ease. “Rodent” is one of the album’s biggest triumphs, a thunderous track with crunchy guitars that erupt over the steady, pounding drums. The lyrics are humorously self-deprecating but no less authentic and genuine as Greg relates his desire to remain discreet to the rodent living in his walls. The anthemic bridge lends the listener to raise their fists as the line “I am only bad news” repeats with confident authority. “The Talk” is an lightning-quick track that clocks in at just over two minutes and sounds like Insomniac-era Green Day made sweet love to Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, while “My Friend Kyle” is an upbeat shot of energy that includes a catchy, thumping chorus.Lead single “In Remission” features a clear 90’s inspiration, effortlessly infectious and insightful with short quips sung with an almost visible half-smile. Greg bluntly muses, “Maybe the future’s just a little bit weird/maybe the God you love is all I have to fear/life’s a terminal illness in remission/so I took the weight of it all and then I drank/and then we drove back drunk through the busy city streets.”

The Menzingers takes every opportunity to showcase their improvement as songwriters, opting to experiment rather than remain comfortably coddled by a conventional punk blueprint. “Where Your Heartache Exists” slows things down, opening with a thick bassline and a clean guitar riff that builds to a head-bobbing chorus. “Transient Love” will come as a shock to the listener, further reaching unchartered territory by cracking the five minute mark. The song boasts a driving bassline, hypnotic drumming, and a smooth and calculated lead guitar presence, while the vintage scowl is noticeably absent from the vocals. The pleas of “All I ever wanted was to make things right/over and over in my head I’ve tried/but all I’ve ever wanted was to make things right”, evoke a palpable sense of torment and longing. The band breaks out the acoustic guitar for the somber closer “When You Died”, which plays like a Bob Dylan-inspired Against Me! track gone acoustic. Greg solemnly wonders, “Where do people go when they die/how do you keep them alive?/How do you make sure that something like this/won’t ever happen again?” It’s a dilemma without a definitive answer, but one that invites serious reflection. “When You Died” is an appropriately open-ended conclusion to an album that addresses everyday issues that don’t have an obvious solution.

Rented World is the result of realized talent and potential that is blossoming in front of our eyes. The group’s music has progressed in a way that feels natural while maintaining a strong grasp on their identity, different enough musically to build a larger audience but familiar enough to appeal to old school fans. Greg admits in an interview with Blare Magazine that he does worry the punk community shunning them as they continue to evolve, a fear which has been proven time and time again with many punk bands. While they cannot control how people will react to their maturation, they can continue to focus on releasing the best music they possibly can, and that is enough to be proud of. Following Rented World, it’s easy to expect The Menzingers can do anything they put their mind to. So instead of wondering, “what’s next”, it’s probably better to just hop on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride.

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