Album Review: The Menzingers – Hello Exile

Hello Exile is everything we love about The Menzingers and so much more. 

Philadelphia-based punk band The Menzingers are set to release their brand new record Hello Exile via Epitaph tomorrow and we’re here to tell you it’ll be one of the best records you listen to this year. Hello Exile is the band’s most diverse and lyrically heavy album yet, but it’s still a Menzingers record through and through – which means, you will fall in love with this album on first listen, we promise.

Following 2017’s hugely successful After The PartyHello Exile shows the band having grown, having taken in the world around them and all the while trying to make their way through life in their early 30’s. And as many times before, The Menzingers hit a sweet spot with those stories and emotions as many of their fanbase will be going through similar situations, giving the world relatable a whole new meaning. All of that mixed in with the hook-laden Menzingers sound we know and love, Hello Exile delivers so much to adore and discover.

Yet, Hello Exile holds many pleasant surprised and sees the band discover new sounds such as a dash of Americana here and there, a bit of classic rock, and a little less punk grunge – creating just enough of a new vibe while still staying in classic Menzingers melodies. With Hello Exile the band position themselves as stadium-friendly rockers with a broad appeal. If you listen to opening track America (You’re Freaking Me Out) and you can’t see a full arena or stadium bouncing along to it, then you didn’t listen right.

Pounding rhythms and furious guitar riffs paired with an anthemic chorus and societal commentary on the state of a nation has always been a winning formula and many bands spend their whole careers trying to write tracks as relatable, catchy and iconic as America (You’re Freaking Me Out). 

“We’re living in a pretty insane time, where all you can think about every single day is ‘What the hell is going on with this country?’” says vocalist Greg Barnett about the track. “But as I was writing that song I realized that it’s kind of always freaked me out, especially coming-of-age during the Iraq War. I love so much about America, but I think you can’t deny that there are some people in power who are absolutely evil.”

Continuing on the arena rock melodies is Anna, which shows more of that old school rock influence of Springsteen and friends. It’s one of those songs you’ll want to play on a road trip with the windows down. And a track that in its melody and lyrics somehow reminds of a New Jersey rock version of the Breakfast Club.

Speaking of that New Jersey rock influence, High School Friend with its bouncy bass and classic riffs reminds of the boss in all the best ways, while the lyrics speak of leaving your hometown, just with a few more swear words than Bruce would use. We aren’t complaining though. Last To Know is one of the most sonically diverse songs on Hello Exile. It’s grungy guitars feel heavy until the bridge takes you into spacey organ experiments that somehow work.

Strangers Forever is a wonderful tribute to parting ways, backing their spiky guitars with brilliantly barbed lyrics. “Lyrically, the song is inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina. In it, the character Darya Alexandrovna learns of her husband’s infidelity and declares: ‘Even if we remain in the same house, we are strangers — strangers forever!’” explains vocalist Greg Barnett. “The idea of becoming a stranger to someone you so intimately know stuck with me and became the overarching narrative to this song.”

Title track Hello Exile sees the band incorporate Americana influences into their punk rock sound. The hue of Tom Petty is just as much of a sign of a band that’s growing up as it is a tribute to one of the greatest. Strain Your Memory has a wonderfully rockabilly drum beat that is to die for, while you’re singing along to lyrics about the good old times and the ups and downs of relationships.

On London Drugs the band present us with an emotional song that gives you all the goosebumps. “What’s it gonna take to fix me up, I don’t want your London drugs. Everytime I’m with you I take too much, I don’t want your London drugs. Every once in a while when I’m in denial I wind up doing something I don’t want to do.” The track starts off with its chorus, which in Menzingers fashion is hook-heavy and moody. They take us on a night out in London after a show, and we don’t know about you but we can already see the music video for this in our heads.

Hello Exile closes its curtain with an ode to what they do best – telling us stories we’ve all lived in some shape or form, about the little things in life, about friendship, and losing that friendship. They do so, across all of Hello Exile, with an honesty and authenticity that seeks its rivals. The Menzingers never pretend to be something they’re not, and just maybe that’s why you’ll always find something to love about this band whether you’ve been listening to them since 2006 or Hello Exile is your first contact.

The Menzingers will hit the road early 2020 in Europe and the UK. All the upcoming tour dates are listed below.

25 January – Hamburg, Germany – Gruespan
26 January – Berlin, Germany – Bi Nuu
28 January – Vienna, Austria – WuK
29 January – Zurich, Germany – Dynamo
30 January – Stuttgart, Germany – Universum
31 January – Munich, Germany – Technikum
01 February – Cologne, Germany – Kantine
03 February – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Melkweg
04 February – Antwerp, Belgium – Zappa
06 February – Southampton, United Kingdom – Engine Rooms
07 February – Bristol, United Kingdom – SWX
08 February – Manchester, United Kingdom – Albert Hall
10 February – Dublin, Ireland – Whelan’s
11 February – Glasgow, United Kingdom – QMU
12 February – Newcastle, United Kingdom – The Riverside
14 February – Birmingham, United Kingdom – The Asylum
15 February – London, United Kingdom – O2 Forum Kentish town