Review || The Menzingers - "From Exile"

In the midst of a global pandemic period and straight out of a lengthy quarantine, The Menzingers, will release “From Exile” on Epitaph Records on September 25
th of 2020.

It was exactly a year ago when I was gearing up to review The Menzingers’ sixth studio album -now ironically- titled “Hello Exile”. I praised the hell out of the record, saying it was amazingly fresh, relevant and, as always, addictive and I was feeling relieved that one of my all-time favourite bands were delivering -fantastic I called it- music even after a good decade in the punk rock genre. I kept listening for months and the band did what they do best, venturing on a world tour of promoting that record, when suddenly, as we now know, the pandemic hit while on a trip for them in Australia and all known plans were cut short. Being quarantined at home they decided to stay creative and as active as possible knowing well, that live shows weren’t going to be a reality for at least another year and realising, that sadly the newly released “Hello Exile” LP was not going to get the live treatment it deserved. While residing in different locations, the band re-composes, re-writes and generally “re-approaches” every single song on Hello Exile, basically re-recording everything from scrap, making a Pop Americana/Country /full-band-acoustic version of the record. Different touches here and there, like new paragraphs of lyrics or different chord progressions and melodic patterns, as well as various instruments they’d never used before, slapped together from afar, mixed and mastered again by Will Yip, form “From Exile”, the sort-of-a-new record for The Menzingers.

Here’s the thing; I absolutely adore The Menzingers, I am a HUGE fan of literally all of their releases and, as mentioned, I gave “Hello Exile” a glaring 10/10 review, BUT “From Exile” isn’t working for me. I totally respect and understand the will to keep a great record released 12 months ago relevant, to be creative in such desperately difficult times and to offer new-ish ideas and formulas to older-ish songs but almost nothing about this release is making me excited to go back to it again and again. It’s definitely one of those cases where astute personal preference plays a huge part in liking something, but Americana-based acoustic releases are far from my cup of tea and it doesn’t exactly help that I have listened to these songs close to a thousand times in their natural full rock on habitat which is “Hello Exile”. I don’t really see almost anything fresh about the approach in “re-composing” the songs and the better songs on “Hello Exile” like "America (You’re Freaking Me Out)", "Last to Know", "Strangers Forever", "Strawberry Mansion" and "London Drugs" still sound pretty good on “From Exile” as well, but, for me, nothing beats the original and that’s probably why the word original exists. Again, in my personal opinion, I think it would have been much more interesting, albeit extremely difficult under these damned circumstances, to try new material, even recorded acoustically. Yes, the lyrics are great, the vocal deliverance is impervious, the production is top notch but the songs aren’t really anything new to the ear, just something to listen to maybe a few times and put to rest. Ouch, I know!

For once, I’m not grading a record I’m speaking of, but, really, there is no point. People may love “From Exile” for its fresh (?) take on re-released songs, this approach, however, compared to “the real thing” is far far far from my liking. Next!

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