A live album with studio sound.
Eighteen years on from when Scranton, PA punk rockers The Menzingers started out guitarist Greg Barnett clearly does not undersell this, their seventh studio album, describing it as, “a pivotal moment in our history”. Following the longest gap between records there is no question ‘Some Of It Was True’ is very different from its 2020 predecessor, ‘From Exile’ the acoustic reworks of the previous year’s ‘Hello Exile’. Certainly The Menzingers were up for some kind of reboot.
And reboot they have done. Like so many other artists after lockdown The Menzingers were just relieved to get back out on the road performing in front of people. But as they slipped into their old routine they recognised they needed to write new material and take a deeper look at what happens next. Enter producer Brad Cook whose work with Bon Iver, the War on Drugs and Waxahatchee among others led to a complete change of approach. For a band with such a solid reputation for playing live The Menzingers had never recorded live. Cook took care of that dilemma. The result is a studio album that really does sound live. All ‘Some Of It Was True’ lacks is the applause of a delirious audience in between tracks. Back to Barnett, “we wanted to make a fun record and write songs that we wanted to play live, and that’s exactly what we did”.
From the off, the tracklist might just as well be a setlist. You can imagine the house lights have dimmed into the expectant welcoming roar. A single riff paves the way for Barnett’s tremulous voice on ‘Hope Is A Dangerous Little Thing’, “I’m afraid I love someone/ Who’s in love with someone else” beginning a verse of rejection and acceptance before a chorus of frantic energy, harmonies and thrashing guitars, “Hope is a dangerous, dangerous little thing”. You can just imagine the place going crazy. The Menzingers are back.
If the band have not lost any pace they do recognise that getting older brings a broader perspective. ‘There’s No Place In This World For Me’ was inspired by fans the band met in Europe who had fled Russia. The furious pace blasts anger for those itinerants, “What a tragedy, what a catastrophe/ Feeling alone among so many”. The song expands to encompass all those who find themselves on the road either willingly or unwillingly.
The Menzingers describe themselves as punk but they also do a very catchy power-pop. ’Try’ flies along complete with harmonies and a guitar solo to cut through all the background layers. Fun and impressive as the fast and furious hallmark stuff is, the slower-paced songs can go deeper. Behind the brooding tempo of ‘Come On Heartache’ lies the weary plea of, ”come on heartache don’t hurt me no more”. Still in a lower gear ‘Love at The End’ has a bit more space to appreciate Barnett’s vocals.
But, as in the live show, these are breathers among a setlist that belts out unbridled passion. ‘Alone In Dublin’ feels as if there is nobody else in that fine city. Barnet yells into the void, Tom May’s blasting guitar, Eric Keen’s bass and Joe Godino’s drums make up for lack of populace. The final track ‘Running In The Roar of The Wind’ is aptly named and chosen. The Menzingers disappear into the sunset with hope. The jangling chords abruptly cease to send the audience on its way with a promise, “to keep on running in the roar of the wind”.
Sustaining such youthful energy, not least for nearly two decades, is a demanding objective and one not without peril. There are few sadder sights, and sounds, of those who should have packed it in years ago. While credit must go to producer Cook for re-energising The Menzingers the band themselves have to do it. ‘Some Of It Was True’ requires more than one listen, if only to prise apart some of the tracks but Barnett was right, “we wanted to sound like how our band sounds onstage”. They did.