Story by Zach Dresch
When a band releases an album with nearly universal acclaim, it can be difficult to make a complacent follow-up. However, rock band the Menzingers deliver and release yet another consistent and fantastic new album in Rented World.
2012’s On The Impossible Past, their last album, was listed by many music review sites to be one of the best releases of the year, even making it to the #1 spot on Absolutepunk.net’s Best Albums of 2012, so you can imagine expectations were high with regard to new music coming from the Pennsylvania foursome. That album had a unique sonic palette, an album that truly caught lightning in a bottle. It was a timeless album that lyrically was incredibly resonating and an album that fans of rock, punk rock, indie rock, and any kind of rock that people would appreciate. Needless to say, I was curious how their next album would sound.
Thankfully, their new album Rented World is fantastic. Not as good as their last album, obviously, but it is a worthwhile listen. The band has even admitted they weren’t worried about creating a subjectively “better” album.
Lead singer/guitarist Greg Barnett had this to say about fans’ expectations from an interview on Absolutepunk.net. “We knew that some people would be bummed and maybe they’d rather us put out On The Impossible Past 2.0. But, you know, it seems like everyone else is pretty stoked on the new direction for the band. We’ve always been the kind of band where, as long as we like it and our close immediate friends like it, that’s all that really matters to us.”
This shows after listening to the album a few times. In addition to the band’s typical punk rock tracks like “I Don’t Wanna Be An ***hole Anymore” and “The Talk” that highlight singer Greg Barnett’s angry and heart-on-sleeve vocal performance, the band’s experimental tracks are actually the personal highlights and make the album for me. “Where Your Heartache Exists” is a slower mid-tempo song consisting of a bass line that is the backbone to the whole track. “Transient Love” is another slower song that begins with a simple drum beat and keeps building. It’s an oddly-structured song, but it’s one that I enjoy quite a bit.
Tom May is the other guitarist in the band, and he is also the other lead vocalist on songs like “Bad Things” and “My Friend Kyle”. The latter is my favorite, with one of the catchiest choruses you will find on the album and even in the Menzingers’ discography. May and Barnett’s vocals complement each other so well, and that’s one of the bands’ strengths.
“Rodent” is an awesome track that hearkens back to On the Impossible Past material, with an intense vocal performance from Barnett, shouting in the chorus “Me and the rodent in the wall have more in common after all”. The rhythm section of the band, Eric Keen and Joe Godino, really step up their game here. This is evident in tracks like this song and the previously mentioned “Where Your Heartache Exists”.
My favorite song on the album combines a little bit of everything the band has done up to this point and that song is first single “In Remission”. I can’t think of a better choice for first single, because lyrically and musically the song is brilliant. The most memorable line comes near the end of the song where lead singer Greg Barnett repeats the line “If everyone needs a crutch, then I need a wheelchair” over and over. This is a great first song to listen to if you have a desire to start listening to the band and getting into their music.
What sets the Menzingers apart from the rest of the punk rock bands is their lyrics. They have a knack for telling a story with each individual track. You will find less of this on Rented World compared to older material, but it’s still prevalent in each track. “Nothing Feels Good Anymore” shows a vulnerable side to Barnett’s words, and even more so they are prominent in closing song “When You Died”. Bearing a strong resemblance to a Bob Dylan tune, the song is just Greg Barnett’s vocals and an acoustic guitar. Barnett closes the album with the phrase “I cannot help but fear the thing I can’t control, the things I’ll never know”. This phrase alone I believe sums up the entire record. We may be older, but that doesn’t mean we’re any different or any less insecure.
Rented World is an album that has grown on me, and it most likely will for you as well. There’s less immediacy here in comparison to previous releases, which I think is important to know when looking at the band’s entire career. This album proves that you don’t have to make a masterpiece every time, and it can be difficult to compare albums especially when they are sonically different. The band knows this, and this is just the next step for the Menzingers.
This album deserves to be heard. This is a band that knows how to do an album and how to do it well, and I hope this is just the beginning for them. They didn’t need to do another On the Impossible Past, and thankfully they didn’t. They wrote what felt right for them at the time and that’s what bands need to do. I’d rather a band write music that is different in style that has meaning to it, rather than write the same stuff over and over again with little to no inspiration.
To sum up, listen to Rented World because the Menzingers are so honest in their approach and relatable. You won’t hear a lot of bands pull that off so well, so I fully recommend you check out this band if you have not done so already, because they are well worth it.
Best Tracks: “Rodent”, “Where Your Heartache Exists”, “In Remission”