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The Menzingers - Rented World Album Cover

The Menzingers - Rented World

Reviewed by
9.0
The Menzingers - Rented World
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Record Label: Epitaph
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
LP4 is a huge hurdle for The Menzingers. Whenever a band goes up against themselves, it’s an enormous test of their staying power and ability to grow within their own sound. The popularity and cult-like adoration surrounding 2012’s On The Impossible Past makes it obvious that The Menzingers are The Menzingers’ biggest competitors when it comes to Rented World, as the questions surrounding this release view it pointedly as a “follow-up,” and whether that follow-up could possibly meet lofty expectations.

This is fair and unfair for the Scranton, PA quartet. When I reviewed Transit’s Young New England, and completely trashed that album, I wrote that the band had set a standard for excellence in the past - a standard that I held them to with their new work. The Menzingers are in exactly the same boat. At the same time, it’s daunting to give an encore to an album as holistically spectacular and sweeping in nature as the Americana-tinged, story-telling punk rock that Impossible Past offered us; as vocalist and guitarist Greg Barnett explained to Exclaim! Magazine, “...when we first started writing, even the first note, it was like, 'Oh, where do we start?'” [Italics added for emphasis.]



All that said, The Menzingers promptly offer up a delightful effort with Rented World, a record that ebbs and flows with huge rock-n-roll guitar riffs, bombastic drumming, spectacular bass work and a variety of tempo changes to please fans across the board. The Menzingers still borrow from the Replacements, but we hear some pages being torn from the books of shimmering ‘90s alt-rock as well. Take the opening “I Don’t Want To Be An Asshole Anymore” for example - its opening guitar notes appeal to being being blasted in an arena as much as Barnett’s first jot-in-yr-notebook-worthy lyric, “I was the focal point / Out of focus, out of ink,” begs to be shouting along to at a crowded bar gig. Still, The Menzingers are great American poets.

Where punk rock finds its heart is in a desperate, visceral mood; a holy grail that isn’t easily tapped into. To be just right, a band has to be earnest without being overzealous...they have to find the proper desperate tone without being corny. It’s something that you can’t think about in the studio, something that can only come naturally, and this evasiveness makes it even more rare. But The Menzingers find their comfort zone early and often in Rented World, ditching a lot of the self-deprecating lyricism found on past releases in favor of a more general brand of heartache and scorn.

In some ways, this 12-song album is divided into thirds, with major highlights coming at the end of each third. Track 4 is the bass-anchored, brooding “Where Your Heartache Exists,” where Barnett’s vocals are mainly smooth before getting rough in the song’s midsection. The guitar solo and final chorus are huge rewards for listeners, capping off a brilliant build throughout. Track 8 provides another slower-tempo song in “Nothing Feels Good Anymore,” which delivers in its passionate chorus and when Barnett painfully belts, “‘Baby, baby buzz me in,’ I ring your intercom and say / But you just poke your head through the curtain and my heart’s on the floor / Nothing feels good anymore.” Still, The Menzingers ask you politely to grab a beer and turn up the volume to a decibel that will wake the neighbors.

The album closer is the acoustic, Dylan-esque “When You Died,” a song that is perhaps even more of an bruising, crushing experience than all 11 (louder) tracks that come before it. The innocence with which Barnett delivers the chorus is just fucking sad: “Where do people go when they die? / How do you keep them alive? / How do you make sure that something like this won’t ever happen again? / Not to any other friends.” Still, The Menzingers are at their best when they’re weighing on your chest with an emotional heaviness that is nearly unmatched by their peers.

While Rented World may not offer the thematic comforts that fans of Impossible Past will be searching for, the album is stacked from top to bottom with can’t-miss tracks. “Rodent” is a chaotic, metaphorical masterpiece; “Transient Love” is an airy, groovy departure in sound that may somewhat kill the momentum sitting in the middle of the tracklisting, but it’s incredible standing on its own; “The Talk” is a short blast of fun that sounds like ‘90s Green Day covering a Ramones song; “Hearts Unknown” and “In Remission” combine for a sweet one-two punch near the album’s end that together recall Impossible Past more than anything else on Rented World.

Vocalist / guitarist Tom May told BLARE Magazine: “Not to sound like some kind of pretentious idiot, but we weren’t really that concerned with topping the last record because it’s not really a competition. It’s something that’s completely different, apples to oranges.” Well, I can compare apples to oranges if I’m deciding which fruit I want to eat. The thing is, fruits are the types of things that can be better when you combine two different kinds together instead of eating them all exclusively. There’s room for more than one fruit in my heart.

Rented World and On The Impossible Past are records that will complement each other for the rest of your life if you let them. As the seasons change and you grow more familiar with Rented World’s nuances, like you did with those on Impossible Past, it will become clear that each album has its own role in what is blossoming into a remarkable career from this band. These two records, joined with 2010’s phenomenal-in-its-own-right Chamberlain Waits, combine to form a three-album arc that is the type of shit that nerdy punk guys will retrospectively freak out about in a decade. People will praise this trio of records like they do Goddamnit, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire and From Here To Infirmary, and you’ll be able to say that you were on board for the whole thing. No frills about it: The Menzingers are the best active punk band that we have right now.

9/10
 
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10:34 PM on 04/22/14
#2
JellyBelly91
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Nice Review! Stoked to give this a listen.
10:40 PM on 04/22/14
#3
Jaytothesyg
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Great review, completely agree with everything you said. The only songs that don't really stand up to the rest in my opinion are Bad Things and Sentimental Physics.

I still prefer Chamberlain and OTIP to this but this grows on me more every time I listen to it and even if it doesn't match up to those albums it's still better than what almost every other punk band is doing right now.

Last paragraph was spot on. I would compare these three albums to when The Souls had S/T, Hopeless Romantic and How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Or like you said with Trio but adding Goodmourning with that as well
10:52 PM on 04/22/14
#4
johnnyferris
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I seriously love this album and agree that it can't really be compared with OTIP and I'm glad the band feels the same way. Side A is definitely my preferred side of the album, but it closes so strong with "When You Died." "Transient Love" is a song that I've constantly caught myself going back to. My current AOTY.

Also, I'm sure you meant to have to in between test and their in the second sentence.
10:54 PM on 04/22/14
#5
CluckyB
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yeah, haven't listened to this album enough / need to let it age to fairly compare it to OTIP and Chamberlain, but currently strikes me as a very good album that just isn't quite up to what we know they can produce.

But honestly probably two months from now I'll be claiming this is right up there with the others.
11:00 PM on 04/22/14
#6
kianacarly
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I actually really like this album.
11:02 PM on 04/22/14
#7
qwerty22
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You're probably right about nerdy punk guys in 10 years. And I would add Rodent and My Friend Kyle to the initial highlights for this album.
11:04 PM on 04/22/14
#8
Vance Mook
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Excellent review Thomas, glad to see you cover this especially with your OTIP review being one of my all-time favorites on the site.

This is a great album, but it hardly comes close to making me feel the way OTIP did. I love the record's beginning and end, but I feel like several of the midtempo tracks (the three-song sequence of "Where Your Heartache Exists," "My Friend Kyle," and "Transient Love") are flimsy and forgettable compared to the rest of the band's stellar discog. At the same time, the first three tracks, "Nothing Feels Good Anymore" and "When You Die" (which I also found Dylan-esque) are some of the ban's best material to date.

All in all, good review, good record, great dudes, but probably not enough replay value to be one of my favorites of the year.
11:11 PM on 04/22/14
#9
Thomas Nassiff
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I seriously love this album and agree that it can't really be compared with OTIP and I'm glad the band feels the same way. Side A is definitely my preferred side of the album, but it closes so strong with "When You Died." "Transient Love" is a song that I've constantly caught myself going back to. My current AOTY.

Also, I'm sure you meant to have to in between test and their in the second sentence.
I actually meant "of," but either way thanks for pointing that out. Edited it.
11:31 PM on 04/22/14
Scott Weber
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I would have given this about a 7 or 7.5. I think it's a huge letdown from OTIP, which is a damn near flawless record. It's not that it's a bad record by any means, it's just remarkably unremarkable and the band loses all of the dynamic and emotional qualities that make them so much better than they are on this album. Straight, safe, boring. They're still good songs and I'd still rather listen to The Menzingers than most bands, but this album is such a step backwards for them. Maybe Tom doesn't want to compare albums to each other, but that's what happens, and even if I grade this album on individual merit it still comes off as nothing less than a colossal disappointment. At the end of the day, when I put on OTIP after listening to Rented World, I realize that there isn't a single song on this album that tops ANY song on the album before, and many on the one before that. I hope this is a post-hype slip and not a career trend.
11:57 PM on 04/22/14
Jake Jenkins
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i love the fuck out of this album and dont understand where all of the backlash is coming from. like somehow making a perfect straightforward punk rock album is a bad thing? these songs are all amazing and more than a couple stack up to my favorites from OTIP. its just weird seeing the amount of people ive seen say they dont like the album
11:58 PM on 04/22/14
Jake Jenkins
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anyway thomas i'll read the review when i awake from my slumber
12:11 AM on 04/23/14
Vance Mook
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i love the fuck out of this album and dont understand where all of the backlash is coming from. like somehow making a perfect straightforward punk rock album is a bad thing? these songs are all amazing and more than a couple stack up to my favorites from OTIP. its just weird seeing the amount of people ive seen say they dont like the album
I think the subjective key term there would be what you consider 'perfect'. There are a lot of great songs here, but some fall very very far from being 'perfect' in a lot of fan's/critic's eyes.

I just happened to not expect a perfect record, nor do I believe it needs to be. It gets its point across well enough, and I don't think that solid straightforward punk record is a bad thing at all. I don't not like it; I just don't love it.
12:14 AM on 04/23/14
InfiniteArms
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Really, really well written.
12:18 AM on 04/23/14
johnnyferris
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I actually meant "of," but either way thanks for pointing that out. Edited it.
Ah, that works too. Good review!

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