There are several big albums on my radar that I know I will have to review in the upcoming weeks. Huge pop albums that will likely be filled with huge, showy production and will take all my time. But for every Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys there are dozens of smaller acts that I know deserve a spotlight, yet I fail to fit them into my tight schedule. This was initially going to be the case for Jeff Rosenstock’s latest record WORRY. which I had no intention in reviewing until a friend of mine recommended it to me. Upon one listen, I cleared my schedule and listened to this nonstop, falling for the infectious rough cuts of punk-inspired excellence.
The opening song “We Begged 2 Explode” introduces Rosenstock’s personality and attitude towards life well. He reflects in a longing way at all his friends that are growing up, moving up in their careers, and getting married while he sits and waits for someone to come and save him from his own life. It is a quieter track until the end where to instrumentation swell and Rosenstock yells about all these grand moments he is bound to forget once he is no longer caught up in the magic.
For the most part, the first half of this record is full of tracks that are destined to get plenty of traction among fans of indie punk-rock, thanks to the biting lyrics and wildly energetic delivery from Rosenstock. “Festival Song” is the best example of this, playing its catchiness in a cynical way so Rosenstock can stick his middle finger at the establishment and those who blindly support its output. He attacks social media and its users who would not be lucky enough to bond with each other if advertisers had nothing to sell them. He is smart enough to call himself a willing participant of this society right from the beginning, critiquing the punk industry itself saying “this is not a movement. It’s just careful entertainment/For an easy demographic in our sweatshop denim jackets.”
Shifting quickly from punk, “Staring out the Window at Your Old Apartment” starts with a light keyboard that sounds like a lo-fi version of the Beach Boys. This also kicks off the series of songs focused on Rosenstock’s distain for landlords and cheap Manhattan housing that will kick out its tenants, even if there is nobody to replace you. Maybe it is because I know how real these concerns are, but Rosenstock clearly understands the struggle and presents it in the smartest way.
“Wave Goodnight to Me,” another of the records singles, was written in response to being robbed last year, having all of his, and his band’s, equipment stolen while on tour. The song is a thank you to the people who donated to his GoFundMe after the incident and reads as incredibly sincere and is another example of how catchy Rosenstock is at making true pop-punk.
As all punk records do, WORRY. expands its scope on “To Be a Ghost…”, focusing on the issue of police brutality, and other heinous current issues, that people idly ignore until they become a hashtag for people to share. The title refers to how it is more ideal for people to sit and complain online, rather than make a real difference. Rosenstock demands people go out and burst people’s bubbles by actually doing something to better the world.
This is the end of the first half, which is more traditionally structured, unlike the second half which is filled with shorts tracks that seamlessly blend together like a modern punk Abbey Road. The final 11 tracks are fit in a span of less than 20 minutes and the final result is a great blending of various genres that flow in and out of each other well.
Rosenstock goes into self-deprecation on “I Did Something Weird Last Night,” talking about a drunken night that paints him, and his partner, in an unflattering way. This honesty helps make Rosenstock a likeable, and human person, not just an anti-establishment robot. “Blast Damage Days” plays as a more traditional alternative song, still holding on to lyrics that, while a little hopeless, fit in well here.
Things pick up fast with a burst of punk on “Bang on the Door” where Rosenstock complains about his neighbors who are sick of his late, boozy nights that lead to his eviction on the ska-inspired “Rainbow” where Rosenstock is bitterly having his apartment emptied by the landlord. From here “Planet Luxury” comes in as Rosenstock changes genres again to something more hardcore as he screams against the landlords who make money taking homes away from the poor.
This theme is carried over to “HELLLLHOOOOLE” where Rosenstock refuses to admit defeat and essentially say he does not want to live inside a crappy Manhattan apartment anyway. This happiness is coupled with the warmth of summer that comes in on the following track “June 21st” showing that Rosenstock is cheering up despite this eviction.
“The Fuzz” is another track that goes into similar territory of “To Be a Ghost…” where Rosenstock admits he finds it hard to remain peaceful when innocent people ae being murdered and their killers get nothing more than a fine. He describes graphically squeezing these people to death in the chorus. Lines like “Will the Riot Squad Protection Force/Every try to fight for life?” is one of the more powerful lines on this entire record.
Rosenstock ends the album in a cuter way, with songs like “…While You’re Alive” how he wants to let his loved ones know how he feels while they are still around. He says everyone sits around and talk about how much they cared after someone goes and it is more important to him to get the feeling out while he can. The acoustic cut is heartfelt and seems to more personal in the tracklist. “Perfect Sound Whatever” is the most ideal way to end the record, as Rosenstock explains how he did not both to try and find a perfect way to conclude any of the record because perfection is not real. The idea works perfectly considering the album’s undeniable rough aesthetic which works entirely in its favor.
I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this record, and it will surely go down as one of my favorite records of 2016. Despite being a little sloppy and not polished as much as it could be, it has charm and personality that fit the product that was given. This is not for everyone but those who know what they are getting into with this will surely love it. Jeff Rosenstock is proving to be an incredible songwriter and I am hoping this will pay off in some way for him.
Best Tracks: We Begged 2 Explode, Festival Song, Staring out the window at Your Old Apartment, Wave Goodnight to Me, To Be a Ghost…, Bang on the Door, Rainbow, HELLLLHOOOOLE, The Fuzz, …While You’re Alive, Perfect Sound Whatever
Worst Track: Pietro, 60 Years Old