Every once in a blood moon, the world is greeted with musical genius. Albums are dropped constantly in the digital age we live in, but to no avail are any of these worth a replay. Everyone thinks they can create music, even though most of us sound like an apprentice ukulele tuner when we try to manipulate the strings of a guitar or a barbarian while banging on a piano. Only a select few not only have the skill to play pleasant noises on a myriad of instruments, but have the grit to grind and find a sound which can be labeled masterful.
Jeff Rosenstock isn’t your run of the mill ukulele tuner. In fact, he’s a revolutionary.
Listen: WORRY. – Jeff Rosenstock
Jeff Rosenstock, a Long Island native, is the Merriam-Webster definition of musical genius. I haven’t been able to put down his newest release WORRY. (10/14/2016 via SideOneDummy Records), his third solo album, since I found it in early January. I have never been able to connect with an album as deeply or become as invested in any form of music as I have with this collection. His way of conveying raw emotion and placing it in a frame anyone can appreciate is what makes wave after wave of goose bumps rise upwards through my spine, even while finishing my 15th run through.
What makes his music so relatable, as well what makes it so replayable, is Rosenstock’s honesty. This is the first punk album I’ve listened to and truly enjoyed in my entire life. His ability to create seamless transitions between each track has me emotionally invested in this hilled valley of shouting at the top of your lungs about everything beautiful and crushing in life.
Every time he screams, I scream. Every time he retreats into a quieter interlude, I wait for his voice to burn like fire spewing again out of my car speakers into my soul, and back out my own vocal chords as if I’m trying to spread the gospel across this drab Midwestern concrete jungle.
The first track of this album is what I’ve been looking for my entire life. The soft piano, coupled with the prediction of how unpredictably terrible the next decade is going to turn out, cut through me as I listened to this for the first time. He and his friends are at a point in life where everyone grows up. Some separate due to falling in love and starting a family, while others will leave trails of blood in the snow as they find their way back to the bus home.
The song crescendos as he talks about the perpetual cycle of others sneering at him and his friends while living life to the fullest. He accepts that his lifestyle can’t last forever, and he shouts at the top of his lungs with a now roaring band asking for someone to save him from forgetting the magic he’s experiencing.
As we’re bouncing up and down trying to make the floor break
Stop sneering at our joy like it’s a careless mistake
You fuckheads complain because you like to complain
Like I blame rock and roll when it’s just the champagne
That keeps me detaching from reality
Just waiting for someone to come and save me
Won’t somebody fucking please come and save me?
Oh please, hurry up, someone, come and save me
From all these magic moments I’ve forgotten
All these magic moments I’ve forgotten
On a weary floor that can’t support all of us
In a giddy haze and dancing carpet to dust
As the album glides forward, it becomes blatantly obvious that he sliced off all the unnecessary fat. Even the one radio bait single “Festival Song” is an honest look at the ridiculous nature of how establishment the anti-establishment movement has become. This fast-paced clashing of guitar riffs and cymbals smashing at top volume flatter Rosenstock’s shouting as he tells you the world is only your friend if you have something of value.
Take a long look at the billboards
That smother the air ’til you can’t ignore ’em
And glamorize department store crust-punk-chic
Cause Satan’s trending up and it’s fashion week
But this is not a movement. It’s just careful entertainment
For an easy demographic in our sweatshop denim jackets
And we’ll wonder, “What just happened?!”
When the world becomes Manhattan
Where the banks steal the apartments just to render them abandoned
From “To Be a Ghost…” all the way to the end of the album is when wave after crashing wave of goose bumps hits me like a tsunami. Every single song has its own personality, its own ferocity and a unique grip on my heart as he jumps from love, despair, hope and how everyone loves you when you die. Every track perfectly connects to each other like train tracks, laying the groundwork down for this final rush of energy to flood your senses and leave you craving more Rosenstock.
The most interesting parallel in this album is the constant flow of beautiful production throughout the final nine songs, each with their own little twist and tug at different styles Rosenstock has worked with over his years as a musician.
The first track starts off like a medieval folk song, with an acoustic progression backing up a flute. Even though the most coherent lyrics are “I am never letting go of you,” the song is about how the world is going to hell, and love in the face of adversity is helpful in a world full of disaster.
The next four songs all have to do with various living situations throughout his life. “Bang On The Door” is a face-paced, aggressive track with overflowing personality deriving from his paranoia from the constant stimulation around him, whether it’s a call from an unknown number or his neighbors across the street judging him for coming home late and drunk. “Rainbow,” owns up to an early-2000’s pop-rock vibe, and conveys how it feels to be evicted from a home you love. “Planet Luxury” is an even harder clashing of drums flying off the hinge while Rosenstock screams at the top of his lungs about how consumerism is merely a dream sold to keep people poor and anxious towards life.
The final track in this grouping is “HELLLLHOOOOLE.” The song immediately breaks down the built-up momentum from the previous few tracks, and he starts to sing about how people want to profit from the pain from someone living in a hell hole. Rosenstock questions why people are complacent in the face of fear and loathing.
I’ve gone to the platform, spent a long time waiting
With ceilings dripping as mice run through the rain
Why do we accept the hand we’re given?
The dealer’s grinning, she knows we’re terrified of change
But we don’t have to live inside a hellhole
And give our money to some fucking asshole
The final two tracks on this album are the most emotionally fueled songs of this collection. He dives deep into some of the longest running qualms humans have had since the beginning of the enlightenment era.
By far the most powerful song on this album and the knot that ties this web of tracks together is “…While You’re Alive.” The song stews on a day dream of when you’re dead and gone, only a mere thought in the heads of those still alive, and how everybody loves you when you die. The song tugs on the idea that love is just another form of anxiety, and how worrying is the deepest form of love you can have for another person.
When love is dead
We’ll remember gentle nudges keeping us in bed
Or laughing at funerals, queasy at carnivals
Listening to heartbeats slowing down as we keep growing old
I wanna let you know while you’re alive
Because everybody loves you when you die
But when it matters, they’re not there
The final track, “Perfect Sound Whatever,” is the epitome of this entire album. We attempt to impress people every day by reaching towards perfection with every stroke of a pencil on an exam or keystroke in the office. In a world where everything is a contest, we all strive to earn the respect of our peers by putting every particle on blood and dried sweat on paper in an attempt to rise to the top. In the end, perfection doesn’t exist.
Even the most complex ideas which seem insurmountable always have a kink. Perfection is an unrealistic goal. It’s impossible to be objective while classifying something as perfect. The idea is subjective to the eye of the beholder.
Every single track on WORRY. tells a story which relates to anyone who’s striving for a better life. Jeff Rosenstock sets the tone early; life’s constant tug-of-war is not only something he has dealt with, but also obviously something he continues to deal with daily with passion and love.
— — — —