The Menzingers – ‘Some Of It Was True’

By Ash Bebbington

There was a time when The Menzingers were the favourite band of people with their finger firmly on the pulse of the punk scene. While that’s still the case to an extent, their output in recent years has shown they have what it takes to cross over and reach a wider audience.

‘After the Party’ in 2017 was a career defining moment for the Pennsylvanians. While they had a solid back catalogue behind them at the time, it was one of the best releases of that decade and their most mature to date, featuring the best choruses they’d ever put out, superb lyrics, and relatable themes about love and ageing. They went one better in 2019 on the incredible ‘Hello Exile’, delving into serious topics of addiction and the political chaos in the United States while turning out some of the best songs they’d ever written.

‘Some Of It Was True’ continues their stellar patch of form, a triumphant record that will surely cement their already strong claim to be one of the finest punk bands of the last 10 years.

Bruce Springsteen has clearly been an influence on the band in recent years, which can most clearly be seen in vocalist Greg Barnett’s lyrical style. As a songwriter, he takes a leaf from The Boss’ playbook, taking on the role of a poetic storyteller and spinning tales that are as earnestly human as they are quintessentially American. As if to underscore the obvious influence, the cover art for this album doesn’t look dissimilar to Springsteen’s 1982 record, ‘Nebraska’.

The similarities are more than superficial, however. ‘Nebraska’ was a bold creative choice, a melancholy collection of acoustic songs released when Springsteen was at the height of his popularity. There are parallels to be found here; The Menzingers are more popular than they’ve ever been, and fans who are only on board because of their older material will be challenged by what’s on offer here. It features many tracks that are less explicitly rock-focused than anything they’ve ever done.

Large parts of the record will have fans of the Menzingers on familiar ground, however, not least album opener ‘Hope Is a Dangerous Little Thing’. This is one hell of a way to get proceedings underway, and is comfortably one of the finest songs the Philadelphians have ever put their name to. It’s a bluesy rock number, with a chorus hook that is in equal parts joyous and cathartic as vocalist Greg Barnett wails about unrequited love backed up by gang vocals from his bandmates.

Follow up ‘There’s No Place In This World For Me’ is another slam dunk, leaning on an Americana sound while the guitars have an infectiously groovy stomp to them. Title track ‘Some Of It Was True’ is one of the album’s standout moments, featuring an emotionally and sonically punchy chorus as Barnett croons “the older I get the less I know, and I knew nothing then”.

‘Alone in Dublin’ feels like a spiritual successor to ‘London Drugs’ from ‘Hello Exile’. Both songs deal with the experience of feeling out of sorts in a city thousands of miles from home. In classic Menzingers style, it’s triumphant sounding song with a gloomier meaning than it at first lets on as Barnett howls “I wish you were here with me, I’m all alone in Dublin searching for something”.

As with all previous Menzingers records, Barnett shares vocal duties with fellow guitarist Tom May. ‘Try’ is the best of May’s songs on this  record, a fun, bouncy track that is sure to sound absolutely huge live.

In many moments on ‘Some Of It Was True’, The Menzingers find their more tender side with songs that eschew the trappings of punk rock. This is a departure from their signature sound, but one that pays off massively. ‘Come On, Heartache’ is the album’s first foray along these lines, a song that is sonically upbeat but steers clear of the heavy guitars and gruff, half-screamed vocals you might expect from this band. Lyrically, it sees Barnett at his bittersweet best, lamenting about heartbreaks past while clearly having hope for the future. In a similar vein ‘High Low’ and ‘Ultraviolet’ are both slow, minor pieces that will be lighter-in-the-air moments at future Menzingers shows.

With ‘Some Of It Was True’ The Menzingers have proved how relentlessly and reliably brilliant they are, completing a trilogy of records that are all straight 10s. There are countless bands that make punk music, and many of those infuse their sound with an Americana edge, but there are precious few who can do it with as much energy or soul as The Menzingers.

ASH BEBBINGTON

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