Hailing from the hometown of Dundler Mifflin, The Menzingers bring their sixth album Hello Exile. Much like the comedy that took place there, the tone is pretty samey all throughout, a pretty standard Americana punk band sound that you might hear play a small venue somewhere. What separates The Office circa season 3 and The Menzingers from the rest of the pack is the writing. This album explores exploited romances, unrecognizable childhood institutions, and high school friendships in an honest way.
The Menzingers are no stranger to recording; with a 13 year-career, they show surprising longevity and energy for the age of their project. That said age works to their benefit, as they’ve had time to genuinely experience and criticize the institutions that they and other American Midwest punk groups decry. Their opening track “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)” raises the question that so many of us coming of age in the 2010s ask, “How did America get this way? Or was it always like this?”. With a career spanning the Iraq War, three presidencies, at least one housing crisis, civil rights revolutions on every front, and more media outlets able to report quicker than ever, this track taps into the resulting anxiety with pounding drums and driving guitars leading up to the worried statement, “America, I love ya, but you’re freaking me out!”
The very next track, “Anna”, rounds out the second most prevalent theme on the album: loneliness. It speaks to the rare and beautiful experience of learning a person so intimately that you memorize their mannerisms and you tangibly feel their absence. The chorus is incredibly simple, but the “please come back to Philadelphia” in the context of the song is beyond moving.
This album is a message to the ostracized, a greeting to the exiled. It begs the question, “Does anyone else feel alone like I do?” and proceeds to answer it with a resounding yes on every track. With a driving guitar, a thumping bass, and a pulsing bass drum on every track, let the lyrics bring you into resolving anxieties at the end of a tumultuous decade.