Album Review: The Menzingers, ‘Rented World’

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It’s easy to be let down by a lesser release from a band after a unanimously heralded classic (…well, classic via genre if anything).

When it bleeds it’s hard to not feel let down but that opinion can change if you recognize the intent and of course give it some damn time to grow. After powering themselves into a landscape of regret, nostalgia, and demotion of the will on 2012’s glorious On the Impossible Past one might be surprised to discover that Rented World, the fourth studio album by Philadelphia-via Scranton punk rockers The Menzingers, is lesser in weight and complexity.

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This was intentional. The band has stated that after pouring their hearts out about their then current lives in 2012, they decided to go for the big simple hooks that can quickly feed the listener’s mind easier. Tracks like “Where Your Heart Exists” and “My Friend Kyle” win the listener over greatly with the simple music scales that are covered making the potency of the lyrical content all the more important. Sure, there is a lack of intricacy in the tunes this time out, but not a lack of care. The band ultimately just went big and simple to compliment their new found outlook as a band. There is room to breathe here for chances of optimism and less cynicism. But that cynicism is still there in all its glory.

It’s those often maligned yet celebrated simple guitar hooks that compliment the album’s best track “In Remission.” Optimistic and upbeat but still just as bitter as past material, it flicks a wrist and nods a head as Greg Barnett reserves a signature snarl for the down on your luck lyrics about the pity-stricken dynamics of a winning a lottery or holding in vein your disdain for a past relationship.

Both “In Remission” and album opener “I Don’t Want to Be an Asshole Anymore” closely display the often-talked-about past memories and regrets that the songwriting on On the Impossible Past succeeded with. But, Rented World, is an album with many questions, curiosity and uncertainty that doesn’t look back amidst chugging and simple riffs. Barnett’s honest and imaginative lyrics are still on full display with album closer “When You Died” — strumming along to a series of questions about where we go when life leaves us behind. The future is bright in the eyes of the band but not without a smidge of remorse and anger at the unknown possibilities. Basically, it’s exactly what the band does best but you should be happier for them this time out.

Rented World will probably be compared unfavorably to its mighty and genre-defining predecessor but it doesn’t slouch in effort or sit on its laurels; it’s living in the present. Its quality shows great progression despite a simpler route and it shows a band firmly moving forward and never looking back. Rented World isn’t defining the genre its celebrating its tropes warts and all delivering a solid pop punk record that needs no comparison just a pare of ears.

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