The Menzingers’ newest album Hello Exile is a reflection of loss. From a loss of normalcy in the country to a loss of youth, Hello Exile examines how the feeling of missing something influences life. Though the lyrics often look backwards and the sound recalls music from an older era, the album avoids giving into nostalgia. Instead, melancholy pervades the sound of the album to the point that even if you can’t make out the words, the feeling is clearly understood from the instrumentation and overall sense.
The album comes from a lineage of artists who have come out of smaller towns and cities. With songs about losses and changes of both people and location, the tone lends itself to comparison with other artists. That is not to say that Hello Exile is the same as something you’ve already heard. Recalling the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, Social Distortion, Counting Crows, and early Matchbox 20, the album moves through a spectrum of styles as it keeps a consistent tone and vision. The familiarity of the album only makes it hit harder as it feels like it could be about anyone or anywhere. The similarity of the sound to others makes the album feel more universal.
Through just a first listen, the tightness of the album’s production stands out. The tracks are crisp, and the album never feels like it is going to fall apart mid-listen. The choruses and melodies throughout the album are catchy and easy to pick up on. More importantly, the music and lyrics work together to deliver a clear emotion. Whether heard and understood or just felt, they supplement the instrumentation so the emotion of each track can clearly be felt. As the lyrics explore darker feelings and memories, a brave front is put on. Despite the heavy loss and regret throughout the tracks, the album is focused on the now and the future. The past is brought up as an explanation for how the present became how it is. Instead of leaning into nostalgia and living in the past, the album’s overall sound and lyrics make it clear that we must go on. A brave face is put on and the music sounds tight.
The tracks of the album reflect their lyrics as they don’t mind toggling through genres or tempos to meet their needs. This lets some of the tracks have a quick, light pace while others slow to a heavier cadence. While also allowing sounds of other artists creep in, the genre bending means that not every track will hit the same audience. Tracks like “America You’re Freaking Me Out” and “Strawberry Mansion” are much closer to punk, whereas “I Can’t Stop Drinking” is a straight up country song. With those two styles marking the boundaries of the sound, almost everything in between them is appropriate in filling the album.
Though there is a focus on loss and a melancholy permeating Hello Exile, at no point does the darkness of the album overwhelm the listening experience. Relatable, cathartic, and defiant, the album leaves the impression that things might just end up being ok despite the problems. That alone is enough to make it admirable.