JEFF ROSENSTOCK - WORRY.
Jeff Rosenstock - WORRY.
Side One Dummy
deep purple and baby pink half and half (second pressing, limited to 1000)
Jeff Rosenstock is a good egg. After a long illustrious career in the 2000s with various different ska punk outfits like The Arrogant Sons Of Bitches and Bomb The Music Industry!, Rosenstock had built himself up as a pretty decent force to be reckoned with at the turn of the decade, and decided to go solo. Following a charmingly scrappy mixtape in I Look Like Shit in 2012 and a blistering debut with 2015's We Cool?, the Long Islander was left with the tricky follow-up, attempting not to slide into the sophomore slump that can take down the hardiest of musicians. Fortunately, as I said, Jeff Rosenstock is a good egg.
Let's just start with this: if you thought We Cool? made Rosenstock one to watch, WORRY. is concrete reinforcement of that idea. From the first piano chord in "We Begged 2 Explode", Rosenstock shows maturity and growth from the pop-punk centric sound and themes of his preceding record, with the song lamenting on the uncertain future as Jeff hits his 30s. It's almost like the pessimistic older brother of We Cool?'s opener "Get Old Forever", but it hits with more subtlety and is a more rewarding first track as a result. What follows is a double punch of fantastic power punk goodness, with the gloriously speedy "Pash Rash" barely hitting the 2 minute mark before "Festival Song" anthemically pumps the momentum of the album accordingly. It's by the time that "Festival" comes around that the stark topics and themes of the album rear their heads: the pathetic irony of banks sponsoring punk festivals coated in adverts for sweatshop denim jackets, solely there to extract profit from youth culture. If you haven't been convinced by how shamelessly snarky and addictive it is on record, check out this infamous performance from one of the most electrifying sets Pitchfork Festival has ever seen.
The rest of the first side is chocker with quality; "Wave Goodnight To Me" is a screamer of a tune that nods towards Rosenstock's ska punk roots and "Staring Out The Window At Your Old Apartment" may have a clunky title, but it's an underrated breezy cut that's welcoming after the snotty punk intermission beforehand. Side A ends with "...To Be A Ghost", which acts as a departure from referencing societal, social and political issues and sets side B up to discuss some of these issues head-on. It's half a blissful acoustic number, half an anthemic crescendo, but it's 100% a killer track. It's on this song that Rosenstock's addition of Mike Huguenor (Hard Girls) on guitar to his already incredible backing band truly pays off. It's a true testament to how Rosenstock can orchestrate such a full and rich sound with the right jigsaw pieces.
Side B begins with the short but weirdly atmospheric "Pietro, 60 Years Old", a song inspired by an elderly gentleman and his wife who Rosenstock met when he himself was getting married, instilling a belief that true happiness can be found at any age and that no-one is ever really settled; it's a nice sentiment. It transitions into what is my personal low point on the album, "I Did Something Weird Last Night", but that by all means doesn't tar it as a bad song. It's a bit too clunky in parts and feels a bit too much like a stream of consciousness rather than a grand memory about meeting his wife. However, I'm a fan of the instrumentals on the song, with the little licks here and there from Huguenor being a highlight. Then, it's here, the part that makes this album rise high above its peers: the patchwork quilt of nine songs, all leading into each other like a big fuck off punk symphony.
Beginning with the Weezeresque "Blast Damage Days", it punches hard with every new track. After "Blast", the tempo is cranked up a bit to mirror the paranoia of eviction in "Bang At The Door", then Rosenstock finds the ska dial and breaks the knob off for "Rainbow", continuing his frustrations and worries about vulturish landlords whilst sneakily adding hardcore layers to the song towards the end. This explosion culminates in "Planet Luxury", a blistering 30 second blast about how consumerism pushes people to want more than they need. Already, three songs in, and the songs are diverse in the realms of punk, but each and every track feels fresh as fuck and adds a new edge. Rosenstock going from ska punk to full-on hardcore is like watching the Hulk grow into a behemoth right before your eyes; it's fucking stunning. Everything is pulled back for "HELLLLHOOOOLE", an almost punk ballad that acts as a conclusion to his righteous bashing of greedy landlords and mega corporations and brings about a more positive tone with a pop-punk skin in "June 21st", a significant day for Rosenstock as it's when he married his wife. It's warm and fuzzy, and the accentuation of glockenspiel and keys adds a whack of charm alongside Rosenstock trading out frustrations to sing about love. However, the emotional rollercoaster takes a swerve for a song, as "The Fuzz" deals with his anger towards the unjust things happening in the world. The dynamics on these tunes are absolutely pitch perfect and are written in such a way that you feel like you're dipping up and down and spinning around as the torrent of music comes at you, wave after wave, and then "...While You're Alive" comes in for a gut punch and reality check. The damning idea of only being loved when you die is a daunting and thought-provoking one, but Rosenstock somehow makes it anthemic, and the ending lines of the song culminate the title of the entire record: "love is worry". This chants into the finale of WORRY., as "Perfect Sound Whatever" completes the punky jigsaw puzzle, with the balls of also being the best song of the medley. Rosenstock is right though; perfect doesn't exist, and there's never a perfect time to do something difficult, so just do it. "Perfect Sound Whatever" is also a culmination of the whole medley, itself being a hooky, frenetic and sometimes shouty affair that also burrows itself into your head for days on end.
There's no wonder why I'm doing a long essay on this album in a few months. It's gorgeous inside and out, and the messages are more relevant than ever today. As for the pressing, it's crisp and clear and the colours are brilliant too, although I may have recieved a peculiar misprint, as both stickers are Side B. Nevertheless, this is a modern classic that I revisit on a near biweekly basis. Punk gold.
FFO: Bomb The Music Industry!, Weezer, PUP