Stunning third album from maudlin Pennsylvania punks.
Alistair Lawrence 2012-02-29
While it’s not uncommon to discover music that can offer sweet relief from the bad times, it’s much rarer to discover bands who make the bad times sound fantastic. The Menzingers do just that, with their mix of anxiety and black humour. Not to mention the towering, infectious high caused by their rousing brand of rugged rock music.
Written after a period of life on the road and two albums of raucous punk rock, On the Impossible Past finds them older and none the wiser. It begins, "I've been having a horrible time / Pulling myself together," and pumps itself up into the gut-flummoxing chorus of Good Things. As things fall apart, there’s a glimmer of an ancient joyride and fruitless meditation. It’s an odd but welcoming consolation; an invitation to join them at the bottom.
Featuring an opening salvo that could take on most albums track-for-track, another highlight is The Obituaries. Here the lyrics go back and forth around its wistful "I will f*** this up, I f***ing know it" refrain. There’s a sly admission, "I am just freaking out, yeah I’ll be fine" – but they don’t let it get in the way of the purge for long.
Completing a breathless first half are Gates and Ava House. The former’s evocative storytelling recalls a youthful The Hold Steady, while the latter dances a defiant love song on the top of a pounding kick drum beat.
The second act isn’t as intense, featuring the Smiths-gone-punk of Sun Hotel and a title-track that revives and develops the lyrics of Good Things at half the speed. Nice Things re-ups the tempo and cracks open a can of reminiscence without being trite, though.
Of course, The Menzingers can’t be in that bad shape, otherwise they wouldn’t have been productive enough to record their finest hour to date. Far from a coup de grâce, it burns like a flare for a bright future. It might only be February, but you wouldn’t look foolish calling this one of the albums of the year.