The anthemic opening track from The Menzingers‘ fourth album, “I Don’t Want to Be an Asshole Anymore”, comes in fast and strong like a sucker punch. An anthemic guitar riff rings out, punctuated by hefty cymbal crashes before the whole thing coalesces into a driving beat. Vocalist Greg Barnett’s storytelling ways are immediately on display as he starts the track off by lamenting, “Yeah last friday night I wasn’t me/I was a still line trapped in eternity/I was the focal point/out of focus out of ink.”
The “whoa-oh” laden chorus, however, is spliced with some of his most straightforward lyrics. Besides claiming that he won’t be an asshole anymore, Barnett claims: “Baby, baby I’ll be good to you.” In the span of just a verse and a chorus, Barnett and the band have put both their blunt honesty and their nuanced creativity on display. That very dichotomy is what makes “I Don’t Want to Be An Asshole Anymore” work so well.
The Menzingers’ two vocalists, Barnett and Tom May, have always been smart with their lyrics. They alternate between spelling out their rants in basic language and weaving deeply metaphorical storylines into literary and historical references. “I Don’t Want to Be an Asshole Anymore” is a fantastic demonstration of their ability to make the two modes work side by side. The theoretical imagery of Barnett’s second verse (I pushed my emotions off a bridge/I’ve been taking them hostage with a shotgun/now they’re somewhere treading water/somewhere lost inside the man that I’m not”) explodes into the crux of his argument (“I don’t want to be an asshole anymore”).
Barnett’s been quite the leadoff hitter on the past two Menzingers albums, as he took the lead with “Good Things” on 2012’s On the Impossible Past. “I Don’t Want to Be an Asshole Anymore” shows that four albums into his career, he is able to steer a track without overwhelming it. May, bassist Eric Keen and drummer Joe Godino more than pull their weight — it’s Godino’s skittering beat that guides the song’s chorus — and their spirited performances are what give Barnett the context to take control. “I Don’t Want to Be an Asshole Anymore” is a great track on its own, but it’s an even better choice for an opener to what is looking to be a very exciting album.