Two of my favourite bands released albums at the start of 2017, and both were followups to critically acclaimed records. This article really captures a lot of my feelings about where each band is at in their careers:
In a small stroke of fate, the Menzingers and Japandroids, two bands that five years ago struck lightning in their respective bottles on either side of North America, released new albums on the same day last week under the same parent label, Epitaph Records. With the releases of each, After the Party for the Menzingers and Near to the Wild Heart of Life for Japandroids, the two bands now find themselves in the same predicament: How does a band move on from the album that many will forever consider their masterpiece?
As a result, Near to the Wild Heart of Life takes greater risks. After a familiar, quick and dirty rock banger to kick the record off, they gradually introduce a few new elements into their repertoire—some synths, more introspective lyrics, and even a sweeping seven-and-a-half-minute ballad. They may not have completely reinvented what it means to be a Japandroid, but it’s clearly a deliberate effort towards evolving. After the Party, on the other hand, sees the Menzingers maturing a bit, tackling the problems that come with hitting one’s thirties, but musically, delivering more of what put them on the map.