Mark takes a listen to Jeff’s surprise new record, dropped unexpectedly in our laps on New Year’s Day. FFO: Early Weezer, The Smith Street Band and Joyce Manor.
Review by Mark Bartlett.
My level of fandom for punk savant Jeff Rosenstock currently resembles the awe I felt as a tween discovering rock music for the very first time. I know that Jeff would feel very uncomfortable being labelled as a genius or some kind of scene saviour, but this self-deprecating, humbled outlook is all part of a package that has made Jeff my favourite musician and a personal inspiration.
What it ultimately comes down to is generosity and good intentions; Jeff and his previous band Bomb The Music Industry have always been about channeling all of that exciting punk rock energy into being the best person you can be, inclusiveness and an ethical code that allows everybody to enjoy his music for free and to attend safe, cheap shows. It doesn’t hurt that Jeff and the band release fantastic albums on a very regular basis that seamlessly blend punk, pop, indie, hardcore and ska, as well as touring endlessly.
I assumed that Jeff would need to recharge for a little bit following the long haul promoting 2016’s Worry, but on New Year’s Day Jeff generously decided to bestow a brand new studio album Post- on us for free via Bandcamp and Quote Unquote Records with no warning or fanfare. Initially, as was the case with Worry, Post- feels a little underwhelming in the wake of its immediate predecessor. As with all of Rosenstock’s albums it takes a few listens to fully absorb all of the great things about Jeff’s songwriting. However, 40 plays later I can happily confirm that Post- continues the streak of excellence that previous releases Worry and We Cool established, but in some unexpected ways.
Opener USA is a mammoth 7 minutes and sets the blueprint for all that follows. Jeff’s voice is stronger; a little bit of vocal restraint being exercised in service of songwriting. Post- was written in the wake of Trump’s election and a lot of the subject matter is reflective of the collective anxiety we’re all living in; “I fought the law, but the law was cheating,” is one of the best lyrics on the record. The explosive, “We’re tired, we’re bored,” refrain at the end is another example of Jeff’s ability to put several main chorus-worthy hooks into a single song.
Yr Throat is a personal highlight. It kicks off with an almost Iron Maiden-ish gallop before exploding into a big earworm chorus that reminds me of Boys And Girls In America-era Hold Steady thanks to Dan Potthast’s lovely keys. There’s a bright, hopeful clap-along middle section that filled me with joy from the first time I heard it.
We then have my undisputed favourite All This Useless Energy, which has a Weezer Blue Album vibe with its mid-tempo chug and sombre opening riff. The verse is one of the best melodies that Jeff has ever sung. It concludes with my favourite closure to any Rosenstock song: “Oh please, you’re not fooling anyone when you say you tried your best. Because you can’t be your best anything when you can’t get any rest.”
Powerlessness is a jaunty, faster song more reminiscent of a track from We Cool than anything else here. It’s a great song but probably still my least favourite here.
TV Stars is a big dreamy, Beatlesy ballad, with big harmonies and lush full instrumentation. It’s really mature songwriting and in the hands of any big pop artist would be a hit single (I don’t mean that as a negative, though).
Melba is amazing and for most fans it’ll probably be the standout track, as it includes arguably the strongest chorus on the record. It seamless segues into the immediate, short and simple pop of Beating My Head Against A Wall which is insanely catchy.
Another highlight in an album full of highlights is the Laura Stevenson duet 9/10, which is another lovely keyboard-driven ballad. It feels like a musical departure of sorts, moreso than anything else on the album. John Dedomenici’s bass playing really stands out here.
Jeff likes to close out his albums pretty bombastically and, in typical fashion, Let Them Win is an 11 minute slow stomp of a protest song that finishes things perfectly.
Overall, I’d say even though Post- is relatively short, and doesn’t quite hit the heady highs of Worry, it is still consistently brilliant and a continuation of Jeff’s seemingly never-ending winning streak.
You have no reason not to check this out right now.
Review by Mark Bartlett.