Those of you that follow me on social media may have noticed by now that over the past weeks, I have fallen in love with the music, and the ethic toward music of Jeff Rosenstock. I admit, he was a recent discovery of mine, oddly through the AV Club: Undercover series on YouTube, but through that one video of a sweaty yet incredibly enthusiastic performance I discovered the entire “DIY Music” scene. Oh boy, oh the music I will hear, I cannot wait. After devouring the back catalogue of Bomb the Music Industry! I moved on to Jeff’s solo work, firstly to his newest album, “We Cool?”.
Get Old Forever
The album sets off with a frantic acoustic verse, accompanied by Rosenstock’s distinctive voice, then joined by an old school drum machine, which almost feels like a callback to earlier BTMI! Albums, but as the music swells the song kicks in with a full and heavy sounding band, a real band, drums, bass, and later, synthesiser. The rest of the song remains just as frantic and loud, ending accompanied by wind instruments and well deserved applause.
The song follows the theme of, well Getting Old Rosenstock laments that he still feels “childish” as he is “drinking at a house show”, while his friends are “buying homes” and having children. This is an ongoing theme throughout the album, which I think is interesting as most punk albums are about the young.
You, In Weird Cities
The second song begins suddenly and loudly in a classic punk-rock way, Rosenstock’s lyrics are separated by the guitar hits in much the same way he feels separated from his friends. The song is driven by a droning, distorted bass guitar, giving it a very simple, yet powerful feel. The song really kicks in during the main chorus, and it seems like the music will never slow or wait for you as Rosenstock spits lines apparently without taking breath; but suddenly it does. This song’s “middle eight” is calm a drum lead crowd sing-a-long, which quickly kicks into a face melting solo to scream over.
This song seems, once again to be about how Jeff feels about being an adult. All his friends have moved away to be “good Americans”, but he still longs for the crazy times when he got “Lost in Weird Cities”. He remarks that listening to his friends songs makes him feel like they’re there, which is a cute sentiment. However, it leads to pity, as they are not there, leaving Jeff “getting high when no-one is around”.
They say every album has a dud, and for me, Novelty Sweater is exactly that. There is nothing wrong with it, per-se, but I would happily have cut this song from the record. It is very easy to compare this song to those of Weezer, hell, they even have a song about sweaters! The bass lead and heavy fuzz in the chorus evokes much of the same feelings Buddy Holly or the more recent Memories, which isn’t really a bad thing. These are all great songs by a great band, but because it just feels like a Weezer song, it doesn’t feel like a Jeff Rosenstock song, and thus feels slightly out of place on this album.
And now for something completely different: Fuck I love this song. For me, Nausea is the perfect song, a good balance of piano, band and wind instruments, fantastic lyrics and one hell of a sing-a-long. It starts off with Rosenstock on the piano, who is then joined by drums, then bass and a choir of voices chanting the chorus. This builds to a fantastic wind section solo, immediately followed by a heartfelt final solo chorus. What this song nails is contrast, changing dynamics throughout to be a fun singing and dancing number to an almost tragic ending with just Rosenstock and his piano. Who cares if Rosenstock can’t reach some of the notes? It’s part of this song, and in fact, his own charm.
The cheerful beginning could be seen as reflecting the lyrics, feeling “amazing” while taking drugs alone, but devolves into a bitter end. This is what he is talking about in You, In Weird Cities hiding from his adult responsibilities, being “tired of discussing” his future and “getting high, when no-one is around.” This can also be seen in the song’s strange, but fun music video, in which he ends up lying on stage as the crowd literally rip his insides out (although, these insides are tacos).
Beers Again Alone
The silence after Nausea is filled by Rosenstock’s “acoustic” anthem for the lonely, beginning with Acoustic guitar and harmonica, it almost feels like a slow, Bob Dylan song… That is, until the rest of the band kicks in, pounding their instruments and belting the tune. The verses quiet down to a slow paced acoustic ballad, but every chorus the band kicks in, to a loud and proud guitar solo before one last screaming of the chorus.
Once again here, Rosenstock has written a perfect sing along, loud chorus, quiet verse, it’s the DIY punk scene’s Don’t Look Back In Anger. He writes about his solitary life, mostly drinking alone, but sometimes waiting “a few hours for someone I love to come home”, but yet still mostly “drinking beers again alone”. I know that feeling, Jeff.
I’m Serious, I’m Sorry
This last track from Side A is probably my favourite of the album, maybe my favourite song Jeff Rosenstock has written, including his BTMI! Stuff. It begins, again with just Jeff with his guitar (electric this time), it’s all pretty tame until the chorus; this is where all hell breaks loose. A very distorted band kicks in, with driving drums, Rosenstock, no longer quietly crooning, he’s yelling, he’s frustrated and angry and then the quiet returns for the next verse. Top that off with a shout-tastic middle eight and screaming guitar solo, this song is perfectly crafted.
However, the music is only one half of this song’s brilliance. The lyrics tell a story of regret, of Rosenstock regretting not offering his help to someone who is crying at a party, just because Jeff “ingested too much poison”. The crying girl at the party is mourning for probably a boyfriend who is either dead, or almost there, and it’s tragic. The anger and sadness of the chorus and verses fit perfectly with the themes of loss and regret, and makes this an excellent track.
Keep your eyes peeled for my review of Side B, coming soon to a blog near you!