In a 2019 FADER profile on The Menzingers, writer and author Dan Ozzi summed up the band's beloved 2012 album On the Impossible Past better and more succinctly than anyone else has before or since, calling it "a young person’s idea of what it means to feel old." A lot or musicians have set out to write songs about quarter-life crises, but I don't think The Menzingers were doing that; they were living it, and it couldn't help but come out in the music. As a band whose primary influences around this time were classic punk and heartland rock, The Menzingers clearly had old souls, but they were in their early 20s and having the kinds of experiences that people tend to have in their early 20s, when you feel like your youth is being stripped away only to later realize it hadn't been yet. On the Impossible Past, which turns 10 years old today, perfectly captured that pivotal life moment in a way that felt natural and effortless, and that's a big part of what made this album feel so instantly significant.

I turned 21 the year On the Impossible Past came out, which means it's impossible for me to look at this album in any kind of objective or unbiased way. Like The Menzingers, I was drunk on nostalgia, I was having a horrible time pulling myself together, and I was gonna fuck this up, I fucking knew it. I needed this album. It wasn't until seven years and one Dan Ozzi quote later that I realized why I needed it, but even at the time I knew this was an Important Album, the kind you know you'll be seeing anniversary pieces on ten years later. It was a breakthrough album for the band, probably partially because it was their Epitaph debut, but also because they transcended their influences and reached entirely new audiences. Prior to and shortly after the album's release, The Menzingers were regularly opening for bands like The Bouncing Souls, Hot Water Music, The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, Rise Against, and Anti-Flag, but with On the Impossible Past, they became that band for a whole new generation of melodic punk fans who needed their own heroes. A big factor is that, with On the Impossible Past, they veered closer to the emo end of the spectrum than their Orgcore forebears. Maybe some of that had to do with the Scranton band's proximity to and association with bands like Tigers Jaw and Title Fight, and maybe some of it had to do with any critically acclaimed punk band in the early 2010s getting lumped in with the "emo revival," but I think most of it was just the heart The Menzingers had in these songs. On the Impossible Past has more of a political side than it might seem at first glance, but it didn't have that anti-establishment, fuck-you punk vibe, and it didn't have skate punk jokester vibes either. It was personal and passionate and a whole lot of people connected to it.

On the Impossible Past was already the handshake meme between punk veterans and emo kids when it first came out, and its ability to span generations and scenes from the start is a big reason it holds up so well ten years later. I'm not going through a quarter-life crisis anymore, but I still get stopped in my tracks when I hear the anthemic hook of "Good Things," or the storytelling verses of "The Obituaries," or the climactic chorus of "Gates," or the line about crashing a car into a ditch on the title track, or the way Greg Barnett raises his voice to a scream on "Casey." This record is full of satisfying moments like those, and it never drags or lulls or has any songs that feel outdated. It had all the makings of a classic when it was first released, and ten years later, it still feels accurate to call it one.

On the Impossible Past came at a time when louder, punkier rock was in the air, and whether you were in your 20s like me or your 50s like noted On the Impossible Past fan Milo Aukerman of the Descendents, a common sentiment expressed by fans of the album is that it induced so much nostalgia, both with its musical influences and lyrical themes. It feels kinda funny to now get nostalgic about an album about nostalgia, but the type of nostalgia that this album holds feels ageless. I see these songs in a different light now than I did ten years ago, but they don't mean any less to me, and I'd like to think a young person could find this album today and have it change their world like it already has for so many other people. Like most nostalgia, this album looks backwards through a foggy lens, in a way where even the bad parts feel bittersweet. It tells stories that probably didn't happen exactly the way they're being told, just as your own history gets gradually revised over time. It's a series of fading memories that you hold onto more and more dearly with each passing year. It's the impossible past.

Update: anniversary show in the works?

Watch some live videos of the band playing OTIP songs in Wilkes-Barre in 2012 (by Feet First Productions) and stream the album below...

Catch The Menzingers on tour this spring, check out Gregor's just-released solo albums, and pick up some Menzingers vinyl in the BV shop.

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