Friday, March 16, 2012

Album Review: The Menzingers - On the Impossible Past

Album Rating: A-
Nostalgia is bittersweet; reminiscing over a past memory can simultaneously create warm feelings as well as a void in one’s gut. We will all undoubtedly look back fondly at certain moments of our life, knowing that the expectations they built will never be met – but that’s okay, because we know that one day, we will be looking back at what is now the present in the same manner. The acceptance of this cycle seems to be the overall theme of The Menzingers' latest work, On the Impossible Past, in which front man Tom May takes us on a journey through his past experiences. Whether these instances were inglorious at the time or unforgettable, their absence is what continues to torment May.

Musically, The Menzingers have shown a logical progression in sound with each album release. Their debut LP in 2007, A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology, was a gritty, anthemic punk album, while their 2010 release, Chamberlain Waits showed an emphasis on melody, cleaner vocal sections, as well as slowed tempos. On the Impossible Past continues the trend, and while the band has not completely abandoned their original gruff sound, their edge has certainly been dialed back, making way for a more emotional focus. The first track, "Good Things," is a fairly accurate portrayal of the sound of the album as a whole, as it begins with May singing, “I’ve been having a horrible time pulling myself together,” over a repeated gainy guitar line, until it eventually bursts into a mid-tempo sing-along demonstrating the rougher nature of the band. That being said, even the album’s most powerful moments do not compare to the band’s earlier releases in terms of grittiness.

Simply put, On the Impossible Past is immediately gripping and accessible; as a listener, it is near impossible to avoid the hooks (see the chorus in "Obituaries"), melodies, and the ebb and flow of emotion present throughout. Tracks like "Gates" are acknowledgements of our personal shortcomings, but also reminders for us to stay afloat. The deeply personal lyrics, mentioning “American muscle cars” and “Mexican guitars,” bring specificity to the tracks, and will evoke a heart-in-throat reaction with most listeners.

Clocking in at around 40 minutes as the band’s longest release yet, On the Impossible Past packs in plenty of storytelling and wailing, and while the length itself is not an issue, several parts of the album suffer from banality. Tracks such as "Ava House," simply do not have the pick-up or emotion present in others, and disrupt the flow of the otherwise outstanding album. Despite this minor issue, The Menzingers have crafted an excellent and emotional addition to their discography that is similar enough to their former sound to draw in original fans, yet fresh enough to offer variation from their other works.


1. Good Things
2. Burn After Writing
3. The Obituaries
4. Gates
5. Ava House
6. Sun Hotel
7. Sculptors And Vandals
8. Mexican Guitars
9. On The Impossible Past
10. Nice Things
11. Casey
12. I Can’t Seem To Tell
13. Freedom Bridge

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