22 April 2014
by Alex Andrews
It might seem unfair, but a new album is always going to be judged by the one that preceded it. So, let’s get this out of the way as quickly as possible; Rented World is not as good as On The Impossible Past. In fact, it doesn’t really come close. If you’re looking for another record charged with the kind of electricity that hums between the sweat-covered walls and low ceilings of beery basement venues or more songs that chronicle the mundanity and nostalgia of small town adolescence, you need to accept the fact that The Menzingers have moved on.
A crude observation of Rented World is that it sees The Menzingers emerge as the latest perpetrators of what we’ll describe as “doing a Basement” – essentially, trading in their passé punk rock influences of old for a kitcher, grungier sound. Although there are certainly hallmarks of the 90s that reverberate throughout Rented World, The Menzingers are choosier in the ideas that they lift, preferring the subtler, loud-quiet-loud dynamics of The Pixies to some of the stodgier sounds of the decade.
That said, there are still plenty of radio rockers on the record; in particular ‘The Talk’ and ‘In Remission’ crash about with monstrous, party-starting riffs that verge on summer anthem territory. But what makes Rented World worthy of repeated listens – and particularly, what suggests that it could be a real grower – is its variety. The riffier tracks are by far the heaviest that The Menzingers have written to date, but at the same time, there are songs like the sparse ‘Transient Love’ and the acoustic ‘When You Died’ which are probably their most delicate.
To briefly revisit the band’s earlier work, what made On The Impossible Past such a triumph was that it felt like The Menzingers had transcended punk rock, floating up and above a thousand basements and barrooms, almost unconsciously. The difference with Rented World is that feels like a much more calculated attempt to leave that world behind (for starters, they chose a producer whose credits include indie-rock heavyweights such as The National and Kurt Vile). There are already plenty of bands – whether it’s Against Me! or The Hold Steady – that have moved on from respectable punk rock pedigrees in search for something grander and more universal with mixed results. Rented World doesn’t feel like the finished article quite just yet, but it signals the start of a creative new era for the band, which could prove to be very fruitful.
Sounds Like: The 90s.
Standout tracks: My Friend Kyle, Sentimental Physics, Rodent