The Menzingers Keep It Pushing on 'Some of It Was True'

BY Adam FeibelPublished Oct 10, 2023

For a band that has written so much about feeling lost and uncertain about the passage of time, the Menzingers are settling nicely into their status as punk rock veterans. It's been 16 years since they released their debut album — which, in punk years, means they're almost eligible for senior discounts — and last year, they celebrated the 10th anniversary of their third recording On the Impossible Past, the band's breakout album that defined their signature style of romantic, nostalgic, melodic pop-punk. Since then, the Pennsylvania group has been headlining tours across North America and beyond and inspiring countless sweaty singalongs and late-night drinking sessions, particularly among fans who are some combination of aging punks, English majors, customer service workers, chain smokers, binge drinkers and hopeless romantics.

The Menzingers' firmly established and easily recognizable style of punk rock inspires a lot of heartfelt passion that's well-deserved. It also provokes some good jokes. The biggest criticism you could level against their last album, 2019's Hello Exile, was that the Menzingers had almost become a parody of themselves, rehashing old tropes and rewriting the same songs. Still, you'd have a hard time finding a Menzingers fan who would want to see them do anything much differently. Their songs are poignant and exciting, even when they've been predictable. 

So, on their seventh studio album Some of It Was True, the Menzingers remain consistently great at what they do, but this time it doesn't feel like they're repeating themselves. You won't find many references to waitresses, cigarettes, motels, cheap wine or classic American novels. Hell, it barely even makes you nostalgic for the good old days! If you've been a Menzingers fan long enough, that alone suggests a drastic change is at hand. But while the perspective of these songs has evolved from the band's previous efforts, they remain distinctly Menzingerian.

Some of It Was True largely deals with existential questions and romantic pursuits in the present moment, rather than looking back at the joys and tragedies of life through the rear-view mirror. Over gloomy guitar chords, singer Greg Barnett confesses: "I'm afraid I love someone who's in love with someone else." From there, the band kicks into opening track "Hope is a Dangerous Little Thing," a plucky punk tune that has nothing to do with Lana Del Rey and everything to do with a desperate case of unrequited love. Amid the midtempo stomp of "There's No Place in This World for Me," Barnett reckons with the question of where, if anywhere, he truly belongs. On "Come on Heartache," Barnett pleads to not have his heart broken again. 

At no point does he or co-frontman Tom May invoke muscle cars, tattoos or all-night diners, nor do they reference Kerouac or Nabokov. No Philadelphia landmarks are mentioned. It speaks to their awareness that their style might soon grow tired, but also to a greater sense of confidence in their own songwriting. Compared to those specific, tangible references laced across the Menzingers' previous albums, these songs are more broadly existential and bigger in scope. Here, Barnett and May aren't trying to paint these detailed pictures that imprint on your mind; instead, they're offering a series of relatable aphorisms: "The older I get, the less I know," Barnett sings on the title track; "Nobody stays, no feeling's final," May implores on "Nobody Stays"; "The only thing I care about is you," Barnett stresses on "Ultraviolet," all earnestness without a hint of pretense. This could be the wisdom that comes with age — to evoke a feeling without having to explain it first, to let the self-evidence of their words speak for itself. On the finale "Running in the Roar of the Wind," they deliver a poetic, emotional payoff, as Barnett brings the album full circle: "It's so hard to be hopeful / But I promise you I'll try." 

Some of It Was True finds the Menzingers growing up, not too fast and not too slow. They could have made an album exactly like their best albums, and either rocketed into renewed acclaim or collapsed into a walking meme. Instead, they kept pushing forward, confidently and purposefully. That should serve them well now and into the future.

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