On The Impossible Past

The Menzingers

Epitaph Records, 2012


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Never before have I seen so much praise for an album prior to hearing it. Seems like everyone, everywhere was completely infatuated with the third album from these Pennsylvania punks. Even prestigious sites that specialize in punk were claiming this was the album of the year. Being an admittedly self-proclaimed expert on all things punk, I felt more than obligated to check this one out and see what all the fuss was about.

So I listened to it. Once. I didn't feel it was bad at all, but it was certainly nothing earth shattering and a whole lot more mid-tempo than what passes for punk album of the year these days.

Then I saw the band live.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Songs that I had passed off as mediocre were now alive with new vigor, as the band's stage presence and ability to emphasize the best moments of each track to its fullest set the album aglow in a way I couldn't grasp through my headphones the first time around. The songs were charged, passionate, and memorable.  I walked home with my tail between my legs, ashamed that I could at some point deem that On The Impossible Past was anything but exceptional.

When most people think of a punk album they have visions of spikey, multi-colored hair and heavily pierced eyebrows attached to aggressive, sloppy, barely tolerable noise. That's not the type of punk album The Menzingers made here. This is warm, calculated, almost on the brink of Americana and is something even Springsteen fans might find an interest in with its deep guitars, brooding wordplay, and working class rock melodies.

The album is a good mix of anthems for the downtrodden. The choruses have forthright self-deprecation that lingers in your mind for days, while at other times they use more complicated wordplay to convey their feelings of inferiority and hopelessness. Musically, there's a good mix of quiet openings into louder rock (“Good Things,” “Gates,” “Ava House”), bouncy, head bobbin' punk 'n' roll (“The Obituaries,” “The Sun,” “Mexican Guitars”) and a couple tracks that point toward their earlier work (“Casey,” “Nice Things”).

Maturing is a dangerous word in the circles that The Menzingers travels. Often time it's synonymous with sucking, or even worse, selling out. And some might argue that the basic tenet of punk rock is to not ever abandon your sound, lest you might be conforming to some authoritative idea of what music should sound like. Well, though they're still youngsters by most standards, The Menzingers has certainly matured here with incredible results. Their gritty punk rock roots are still evident, but this is a far more refined version of the band with rustic leanings and even classic rock nods. Album of the year material? Oh yes...

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2013 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epitaph Records, and is used for informational purposes only.