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Entertainment The Menzingers Rented World

Published on May 21st, 2014 | by Thompson


Why Rented World is NOT The Menzingers’ Best Album

Now that I’ve had enough time to listen to every track on The Menzingers’ new album Rented World multiple times, I can say, without hesitation, it is not their best album, and for many reasons. Granted, On the Impossible Past is an album that has a special place in my heart given the time and place I found myself in when the album released. I also saw them live in Seattle with my sister the year that album released. It was our first punk rock show together. She’s always been a punk, and I’m new to the scene, but I’ve caught on quickly.

Rented World, as is the case with most punk bands reaching popularity, is popular. It’s lyrically safe, and musically clean, polished and radio-friendly. There’s very little of the raw, crowd-surfing power in the lyrics and the music that made On the Impossible Past and Chamberlain Waits so good. Rented World is basically a rock album with I’m-still-an-awkward-teenager punk lyrics. That’s why DJs are calling them the band of the year now when just last year they were opening for Hot Water Music and some shitty band called La Dispute. Now that they’re radio friendly, DJs show them love, but they were the best band on stage then and still are. They’ve just left a bit of punk behind to reach a larger market. Frontman and songwriter Greg Barnett played it safe this time around.

Sure, I absolutely love Rented World’s opening track “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore.” It’s basically my theme song except for the fact I really don’t mind being an asshole, and neither should The Menzingers. Punk rockers make the best assholes, yet the opening track really sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s radio-ready, poppy punk rock (see also Against Me!’s New Wave). I’d hate to call it a sell-out album, but the fingerprints of Epitaph and producer Jonathan Low are all over it. Even the massive hit “In Remission” has a hook that’s undeniably poppy and repeated maybe one too many times.

If everyone needs a crutch, then I need a wheelchair.
I need a reason to reason with you!”

On second thought, it’s an awesome hook worth repeating, but the best line in the song, as The Preacher often reminds me is:

“Oh 1918, you’ve yet to see the worst of humans acting.”

The Preacher’s immense knowledge of history revealed the Bolsheviks adopted “war communism” in Soviet Russia during the Russian Civil War in 1918, which included the requisition of food from peasants to feed armies and replenish munitions. Rock has always been more insightful than pop, and this album has that going for it.

Rented World continues with a theme of searching for redemption. Tracks like “Transient Love,” “Where Your Heartache Exists,” “Nothing Feels Good Anymore,” and “When You Died” are punkish love songs that you wouldn’t want to see live or play on repeat, but the whole album hasn’t lost the blue-collar punk rock sound. Tracks like “Rodent,” “Bad Things,” “My Friend Kyle,” “The Talk,” and “Sentimental Physics” still feature the throaty lyrics of Barnett similar to On the Impossible Past, and that’s what makes The Menzingers so good. Barnett’s voice is so underrated, and when he pushes it to the max, it triggers goosebumps. Remember “Mexican Guitars,” “Gates,” “Nice Things,” “I Can’t Seem To Tell,” or “Sun Hotel?” On the Impossible Past could serve as a concert set list and I wouldn’t complain, but Rented World is hardly an album that rocks hard enough to serve as a set list from beginning to end. When I see them June 7 at The Triple Rock in Minneapolis, I hope the set list looks a little something like this.

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About the Author

When Thompson isn't busy writing for Go Gonzo Journal, you may find him drunk at the movie theater with Professor Heinous or stirring up trouble in a bar with his attorney. Thompson also enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, and watching and betting on baseball and football.

2 Responses to Why Rented World is NOT The Menzingers’ Best Album

  1. Thompson says:

    And to clarify, my issue is with the band appealing to a mass audience rather than playing to their base like Queens of the Stone Age has mostly done successfully (minus Lullabies to Paralyze). Their sound hasn’t changed dramatically to accommodate industry demands. Lit is another band I respect for ditching their record label to make the music they wanted to. One of my favorite quotes from Lit is: “Our job isn’t to sell records. Our job is to rock live.”

  2. Paul says:

    My problem with these kinds of reviews is that it unfairly conflates our own personal disappointment with backhanded accusations (I’d hate to call it…but…) of “selling out.” It’s fine that you like the last album more because it evokes something more raw and gritty- in a lot of ways I agree that “on the impossible past” is just better- but the fact that I like it more and you like it more hardly means that this album is somehow insincerely appealing to a mass audience when, if you really listen to the trajectory of their music, their sound was already getting more accessible well before this album. This same thing happened with the Gaslight anthem and the reviews said the same thing “sell out” “loss of punk edge” etc. It happened to the Clash as well- Sandinista is simultaneously remembered as one of their best albums but their least “punk.” I think the best reply to these accusations came from the band Jawbreaker who, with a big middle finger to punk authenticity, wrote
    “You’re not punk and I’m telling everyone.
    Save your breath I never was one. You don’t know what I’m all about……

    I’m coloring outside your guidelines.
    I was passing out when you were passing our your rules. One. Two. Three. Four.
    Who’s punk what’s the score?”

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