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Since forming as teenagers in 2006, The Menzingers have shown their strength as rough-and-tumble storytellers, turning out songs equally rooted in frenetic energy and lifelike detail. On their new album Hello Exile, the Philadelphia-based punk band take their lyrical narrative to a whole new level and share their reflections on moments from the past and present: high-school hellraising, troubled relationships, aging and alcohol and political ennui. And while their songs often reveal certain painful truths, Hello Exile ultimately maintains the irrepressible spirit that’s always defined the band.
The sixth full-length from The Menzingers, Hello Exile arrives as the follow-up to After the Party: a 2017 release that landed on best-of-the-year lists from outlets like Clash and Noisey, with Stereogum praising its “almost unfairly well-written punk songs.” In creating the album, the band again joined forces with producer Will Yip (Mannequin Pussy, Quicksand), spending six weeks recording at Yip’s Conshohocken, PA-based Studio 4. “That’s the longest amount of time we’ve ever worked with Will,” notes Barnett. “We wanted to make sure these stories didn’t get lost in the music, so we kept it to a lot of room sounds with the guitar and bass and drums.”
Despite that subtler sonic approach, Hello Exile still rushes forward with a restless urgency—an element in full force on the album-opening “America (You’re Freaking Me Out).” With its pounding rhythms and furious guitar riffs, the viscerally charged track provides a much-needed release for all those feeling frenzied by the current political climate. “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 Barnett. “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.”
With the band achieving that soul-baring intimacy all throughout the album, Hello Exile emerges as The Menzingers’ most emotionally daring work to date. “We’ve always been in love with good songwriting and the beauty of taking a song to its fullest potential, but with this album I feel like we’re really becoming the band we’ve always wanted to be,” says Barnett. Not only a creative turning point for The Menzingers, that uncompromising honesty helps fulfill their mission of leaving each listener with a potent sense of solidarity. “A lot of these songs are looking at different life challenges—they’re stories of people at some sort of crossroads,” Barnett says. “We might not have the answers for anybody, but hopefully the songs will help them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and know that they’re not alone in whatever tough decisions they’re facing.”