The Menzingers have made a career of creating music that conjures vivid images of blue collar America, sitting comfortably between Bruce Springsteen’s working class rock n roll and the scrappy punk rock of Bad Religion, the band have managed to carve out a sound that makes you yearn for nostalgic moments that you never even knew, whether a smokey dive bar, a beat up vintage car or relationships that take their toll while you work your hands to the bone.
The Philadelphia four piece have always had an earnest and honest approach to their songwriting which has continued with their latest release, ‘After The Party’ an album in which they continue to draw from their own history, telling stories of finding the balance between growing up and growing old. As the band reach their thirties, they seem to be hitting their stride as many have regarded it as one of the best albums of 2017.
It comes as no surprise that the O2 Ritz is packed out with punters as the band have amassed a hardcore following despite the ignorance of the “mainstream”, a perennial underdog band who have grown on nothing more than hard work and their ability to stay true to themselves and their music.
As the band take the stage and the first lyrics of the night, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, everything is terrible!” is proclaimed by Greg Barnett, in front of a backdrop of the “Sad Guy” it could be misconstrued under the world’s current state of affairs as melodramatic, but it’s said with tongue firmly in cheek and the blazing chorus of “Where do we go now that our twenties are over?!” has the audience screaming in a show of unison from the off.
Diving into their back catalogue with the reassuring anthem ‘Good Things’, the meshing of Barnett and Tom May’s voices on ‘House On Fire’ shows early signs of their enduring chemistry before the title track off their debut album, ‘A Lesson In the Abuse of Information Technology’ gets an airing out.
The pace quickens with the pounding, ‘Charlie’s Army’ and the band’s drunken exploits laid bare on ‘Thick As Thieves’, something a majority of the crowd will relate to tonight as they salute the band with a beer in hand. ‘Casey’ has all the makings of a love song that doesn’t suffer from the standard pretence of perfection, instead it’s a story of relationship struggles in a working class setting.
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The band’s ability to create raucous opening guitar riffs is evident in ‘The Obituaries’ as everyone screams as soon as the first note is played, their simplistic but gut punching lyrics, ‘I Will Fuck This Up/I Fucking Know It!” reverberates around the room, resonating with all who hear it.
The crowd are at the band’s will as the huge choruses of “Bad Catholics” and “Your Wild Years” have everyone singing a long, showing that the only people to sing the lyrics to The Menzingers songs with more gusto and conviction than the band themselves, is their fans.
The rambling thud of the drums on ‘I Was Born’ rolls into ‘Burn After Writing’ before the band brings out the big hit, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be An Arsehole Anymore’, a song that really pushed the band out and into the periphery of being more than a scrappy punk rock band. ‘Lookers’ finishes off the band’s initial set and couldn’t be more fitting as it sends you through one last wave of nostalgia and is the song that encapsulates the overarching theme of ‘After The Party’, perfectly.
The band pick up where they left off and return to the stage for an encore, starting with ‘After The Party’ – the riff heavy title track painting one last picture of an American youth this crowd will never know – before ‘The Shakes’ has the crowd rattle and rollin’ with the show coming to an end with staple track, ‘In Remission’.
Throughout the night each member looked to take stock of the magnitude of the venue they were playing in, and each with starry eyes gave the impression that they just couldn’t believe their luck. This is what makes people adore this band, they are four average guys who sing about what they know, no gimmicks, no remixes – just pure salt of the earth punk rock music, their twenties may be coming to an end but there’s no doubt in where they’re gonna go, it’s anywhere they decide to go as many will continue to follow.
The setlist was…
House On Fire
A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology
Thick as Thieves
My Friend Kyle
Your Wild Years
I Was Born
Burn After Writing
I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore
After the Party