The Menzingers are getting older. But that’s okay. Maybe. They think. After the Party, their fifth full-length release, is a 13-track meditation on exactly what the title implies — or at least as much as punk rock can be a meditation.
This album croons a certain brand of nostalgic pop-punk that exalts the fleetingness of life while mourning its transience. When you’re young, it’s the sound of a moment lived unapologetically and without reservation. When you get older, it’s really the same sound, just not one you’re actually living anymore. It becomes the sound of a memory, bittersweet and underscored with a glint of regret: [LISTEN; “Tellin’ Lies“]
For a record that feels more safe than innovative, there is a universal truth captured here — something caught in the dissonance between doing what you want and your past racing back with flashing lights in the rearview mirror. The lyrics drift compulsively back into that helpless domain of self-doubt and emptiness. It’s almost like a bad hangover; it could follow the best night of your life, but that won’t save you from the nauseous introspection that causes you to question your fundamental nature.
And the hangovers are getting worse, but the highs aren’t as high anymore. Rebellious youth gives way to mournful fatigue. You know this story. Especially if you’re an aging punk. But that doesn’t mean you should tune it out. The Menzingers still make songs with a flame in their eyes. They just do it with a more mature perspective. ‘Mature’ might be a dirty word when it comes to such a rebellious genre, but this album almost makes those connotations worth re-evaluating: [LISTEN; “Livin’ Ain’t Easy“]
While at no point expressly political, this distinctly Americana-influenced album casts sad glances at the withering idealism of old activists reminiscing about all they’ve survived. The revolutionaries are now questioning whether they ever made a difference, but accepting that they never really had a choice about who they were regardless.
These eulogistic anthems to past lives are riddled with dehydrated desperation and references to previous albums or Hemingway. Feeling blindly for a switch to shed light on the future and blackout past, The Menzingers have found a new struggle to narrate — the one within. And the headline message of After the Party seems to be that punk isn’t really dead, it’s just profoundly aware of its own mortality.