ALBUM REVIEW – “Rented World” by The Menzingers

Exorcising one’s woes through music is a practice as old as the history of music itself. As such, lyrical cross-examination of one’s soul can be a tiring listen nowadays as it’s been done so often. But The Menzingers have proved that they’re better than most at encapsulating the demons life throws at us into words. 2012’s On the Impossible Past was hailed universally as a masterpiece of Americana-tinged punk, the band’s two vocalists (and guitarists) Tom May and Greg Barnett reaching a level of sophistication rarely even attempted by lesser groups. The formula hasn’t changed much for Rented World, but the soul-spilling honesty still comes thick and fast and is still astonishing in how much emotion it can convey.

From ‘In Remission’s desperate coda of “if everyone needs a crutch then I need a wheelchair”, to the admission on ‘Rodent’ that the writer and “the rodent in the wall have more in common after all”, the transformation of confessional miserabilism into infectious melodies is fantastic. Singing along to words of such negative connotations could be just depressing, but done in the right way as it is here it feels like a cleansing of the shadows for one’s body. The words of the verses are even more accomplished, but it’s the hooks that suck you into the band’s state of mind and the hooks that will leave you coming back for more.

Musically Rented World benefits from the pristine production job it’s been given, the stately instrumentation often moving away from punk and more towards heartland American rock territory. Moments of beauty light up ‘Where Your Heartache Exists’ and ‘Hearts Unknown’, but it’s ‘Transient Love’ that stands out as the greatest musical achievement of perhaps the band’s whole career, building from firm percussion and bass with aching lead guitar patterns, unfolding into a sky-high crescendo after five minutes of sheer beauty. While it lacks the sheer timeless brilliance of its predecessor, this is a musically adept album that toys with both early Green Day playfulness on ‘The Talk’ and then acoustic sobriety when ‘When You Died’ brings things to a downbeat conclusion.

While it doesn’t break a glass ceiling for The Menzingers or truly move them out of the shadow of On the Impossible Past, Rented World is a magnificent album in its own right that serves as an effective extension of its predecessor. Songwriting is clearly the main focus but that doesn’t prevent the musical backdrop from shining, though it is the lyrical content that sets the quartet out from their contemporaries. Any record that can make a chorus of ‘Nothing Feels Good Any More’ sound like an anthem to scream at the sky can only be counted as a success.

Rating: 8/10

[Michael Bird]

‘In Remission’

 

The Menzingers

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  1. Taking Back Sunday Announce US Tour with letlive. and The Menzingers | RichardThinks.Org - November 10, 2014

    […] Taking Back Sunday have announced that they will be heading out on the “#HappinessIs Tour” with support from Letlive and The Menzingers. Check out the tour dates below after the jump.“Happiness Is…” Album Review “Rented World” Album Review […]

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