Our latest co-review is of the new single from The Menzingers – “Lookers.”
Besides helping me find a place to live my senior year of college, teaching me enough ultimate frisbee terminology to trick freshmen into thinking I played and approaching me about starting this little blog you’re reading right now, the greatest thing Gene ever did for me was introducing me to The Menzingers. It took him coming to New York and buying me a ticket to their May 2014 show at Webster Hall before I was ready to receive the gospel. I went into their set knowing only one song, which I described to him as “the one that kind of sounds like The King of the Hill theme.” By the time they encored, I was pogoing amongst a sweaty mass of people, screaming along to songs I didn’t know the words to in sheer, unadulterated joy. I was hooked.
I mention all of this because The Menzingers’ latest release, “Lookers,” hones in on those moments and how we try to hold onto them as time changes us. Like the band’s best work, its lyrics are shot through with both a longing for some platonically “American” experience1On The Road is a Great American Novel. My 11th grade English teacher was definitively wrong about this and an intangible sense of loss. It exists at the point where our memories of the past collide with the reality of the present to create nostalgia.
“Lookers” also explores that relationship sonically, starting out as a fuzzy tune before crashing loudly and triumphantly into the present. It’s The Menzingers at their most accessible, aiming for a bigger sound without sacrificing their artistic credibility or the intimate connection they’ve established with their audience. They’re becoming the best version of themselves without losing sight of who they are or where they came from. Here’s hoping After the Party inspires the rest of us to do the same.
Even if “Lookers” doesn’t end up on After the Party, it plays the role of reintroducing a band that never seems to lose its momentum.The song breaks a long hiatus from releasing music for The Menzingers, and because of that it feels connected to both “The Obituaries” and “In Remission” – the lead singles from On the Impossible Past and Rented World. On first listen, it echoes its predecessors with a relatively simple structure. It’s hard to truly botch a midtempo track that starts soft and then amps up with big choruses and a bridge, but The Menzingers have nearly mastered the style on songs like “Nothing Feels Good Anymore” and “Sculptors and Vandals.” Like those selections, “Lookers” showcases the band’s ability to make the simple into something exceptional. Against a familiar backdrop, moments like Greg Barnett’s voice cracking as he sings about “the way my body used to behave” in the first verse, or the tension in the way Joe Godino’s drum fills introduce the final chorus, stand out even more.
The themes of hindsight, memory and temporality create a lineage that ties together “The Obituaries”, “In Remission” and “Lookers.” Where Barnett longs for the past on “Lookers,” he tried to reckon with the future on “In Remission.” Where he wondered whether he was “living in decaying cities” on “The Obituaries,” now he examines “a teenage memory, that I hold till eternity.” There’s a lot of really relatable stuff going on in each of these songs, and it’s refreshing that each has kickstarted the next phase of The Menzingers’ saga by putting the audiences in a familiar mindset.
What meaning is there to draw from the connections between these songs? Most of all, each captures a particular moment in time for The Menzingers. “The Obituaries” pinpointed a shift from hidden secret to big deal, while “In Remission” laughed in the face of attention from immense accolades and near fame. With four lights-out albums under their belts, and less pressure to prove their staying power, “Lookers” play like a career band’s settling-in moment. The thread isn’t necessarily what’s changed, but what has stayed the same.
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