The Menzingers Celebrate The Party Better Now That It’s Over

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This is the music I grew up listening to. Well, not The Menzingers specifically, as this album is my introduction to the band from Scranton. This just really reminds me of the music of my middle school years, which is a much greater compliment than it sounds like on the surface. I’ll explain:

Back when I first started growing into my own skin, the music I listened to was stuff like FM Static and Hawk Nelson. To be clear, that music is objectively not great. If it weren’t for the nostalgia I associate with it, I’m not sure I could even stomach it. However, The Menzingers tread in the same waters, serving as a major league evolution of the junior varsity music I listened to when I was 13 years old. I’ve been listening to After The Party on repeat for the past few days, and it’s serving as the latest chapter in my unusual progression of musical tastes.

By the time middle school was coming to a close, I was full enraptured by hip-hop at the hands of Kanye West and songs like “Jesus Walks” and “Touch The Sky”. In 2007, Graduation came out. In 2008, it was 808s & Heartbreak, which segued into Kid Cudi, and then it was all over. Between the ages of 14 and 22, I’m willing to bet 90% of the music I listened to was in the hip-hop vein.

Some time in 2015, it started to fade. I don’t really know why, but it happened, and quickly. These days, I almost never seek out rap music and 90% of the stuff in my rotation exists outside of the hip-hop spectrum. Look back at anything I’ve written on From Loveland since its inception and you’ll notice. These days, I’m listening to more indie rock and pop punk than I have since 7th grade, so it’s perfectly fitting that I’ve come full circle and discovered an album that takes that exact sound into my 24-year-old world.

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After The Party swims in the same waters as those bands I used to love, but trades in a currency fit for an adult — or at least someone pretending to be. Both cover the same subject matter — life, growing up, girls, hard lessons, rebellious youth — with the difference being that now The Menzingers and I can speak from memories and experience rather than simply pretending to understand like we all did when we were 13 years old.

Rather than look at the past as an era slipping away too soon and the future as a terrifying blackness, the band takes things as they come. The Menzingers have accepted the fact that they’re all grown up, but don’t look back at the glory days with any kind of regret, only with greater appreciation and understanding. It’s like how Superbad was much sharper and funnier than your idiot buddy’s story about his first beer as a junior in high school.

It’s this kind of calm resolve — a happy nod to the past with a brave face towards the future — that gives the band a mature credibility, which serves to bolster the record as a whole. The album is like a resume (or maybe a cover letter) that in turn makes you want to listen to what they’ve got to say.

They cover a remarkable amount of ground. On “Lookers”, there’s personal decay. On “Midwestern States” there’s the desire to pack up and escape home. On “House on Fire”, there’s the urge to seize the day. On “Bad Catholics”, there’s that weird way old relationships look after years of distance. On “The Bars”, there are lessons learned the hard way. On “After The Party”, there’s the little things that make the carefree days so great. The chorus is a good microcosm of the album.

“Everybody wants to get famous

But you just want to dance in a basement

You don’t care if anyone is watching

Just as long as you stay in motion

We put miles on these old jean jackets

Got caught up in the drunk conversations

But after the party, it’s me and you

After the party, it’s me and you”

The way The Menzingers see it, neither the past nor the future are something to sweat. After the party, remember how great things were and keep moving.

The album opens with “Tellin’ Lies”, and the band wonders “What are we gonna do now that our 20s are over?” The Menzingers are in their 30s now, and After The Party is framed with the reality that even young adulthood is in the rearview mirror. I’m not quite there yet, so maybe I’m once again just shy of understanding the full spectrum of what’s being dissected here. However, I’d like to think I’ve picked up some perspective in 24 years, and this whole thing seems like a wise and reasoned depiction of how things were — a coming-of-age without any pretense.

“Your Wild Years” recalls a trip to a girlfriend’s childhood home. “We drove up to Massachusetts together. Your old house was just like you remember. We stayed in your adolescent room, rummaged through the boxes labeled ‘former you’: the souvenirs of happiness in the moment.” That’s what the album is. It’s a peek at a scrapbook through the lens of good old fashioned Hard Knocks experience. After The Party memorializes the magical and the mundane moments that make us, and it does a great job of it.