Music Review: Hello Exile
The years between 2012 and 2016 are a bit of a blur (read: blackout) for me musically. I know I listened to music, as I still mourn the now-unusable RDIO button on my Roku. This must have been during the cage stage every person goes through—eschewing music for podcasts.
In mid-2016 that stage was thrust aside the first time I heard “Lookers” by The Menzingers, the first track off previous effort After the Party. Here, at last, was the record and the band I didn’t know I’d been waiting for. Raw anger, disappointment, romance, and songs to belt with a beer in hand.
ATP was very nearly my album of the year in 2017 if it hadn’t been for Lorde and Turnover unleashing the monsters they did that year. The closest I can get to describing it is like the scenes in That Thing You Do when people hear The Oneders and then can’t get enough of the song. After an albeit delayed opportunity to see The Menzingers live in 2018 I became fully anticipatory of the follow-up to After the Party. It has arrived. Hello Exile.
When I first listened to it straight through, I thought it was good. After a few more Spotify-spins I have settled on “quite good.”
There is a sense that you have already heard this record before you even begin; it’s got a real sequel feel to it. If that sounds like I’m saying it’s a little formulaic, you’re right. It sounds a lot like After the Party, and Hello Exile doesn’t strike my core as hard or as often. But there are some songs I’m really looking forward to seeing them play.
The opener “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)” is about as predictable as the song’s title, and I’ve skipped it on a few occasions.
“Anna” feels like an extension of “Lookers” from ATP, and like its predecessor is catchy as all get-out. “Strangers Forever” is the other single they put out in the run-up to the album, and I didn’t like it out of context but love it on the record.
Of the twelve songs on Hello Exile the final five may be the strongest. I love Greg Barnett’s voice, and the near-Elvis waiver which appears throughout Menzingers’ records is a personal favorite. “Strain Your Memory” is a painful love-song, a theme any neurotic can love
I couldn’t help but laugh seeing the title of the song “I Can’t Stop Drinking,” and it’s a bar-ballad if there ever was one.
“Strawberry Mansion” is my favorite of the Tommy (guitar and backing vocals) sung songs. If “London Drugs” is a euphemism for English alcohol it sure would make one boozy sandwich with “I Can’t Stop Drinking.” Sober October participants will find no ports in the storm here.
In proper Menzingers fashion, Hello Exile closes with a song about the passing of youth, and I think “Farewell to Youth” the best song on the record. It’s a song written to be played live, and this record makes me want to go see them again. One could hardly ask for more.