“Jeff Rosenstock,” reads the banner on his Bandcamp page, “Professional Recording Artist and Person.” You might normally feel as though such a label is ironic, being that the overwhelming trope for when someone releases a solo album is to discuss their shortcomings in life; certainly not a “professional person.” On top of this, the album in question is literally named “Worry,” (stylized as “WORRY.”) so this is the vibe you might be expecting going into your first listen. Jeff Rosenstock’s new album, however, is an extremely intelligent piece discussing serious themes, such as adulthood and the current state of the world. Nothing particularly groundbreaking, but certainly more self-aware than the solo records you might be used to hearing. This isn’t a sad 20-something with an acoustic guitar complaining about his lack of direction in life. This is brutally honest, fast-paced punk rock.
You may know Jeff Rosenstock as the frontman of ska/hardcore punk band “Bomb the Music Industry!” whose Wikipedia page boasts a collective list of 23 members (obviously not all at one time). Of course, you may instead know him from his myriad of solo albums that he’s been releasing almost yearly since 2012. You might be like I was, instead, and you’ve never heard of Jeff Rosenstock. Well, the discovery has certainly been a positive one.
Rosenstock’s voice is an acquired taste. It strains, it dips, it soars and at times it cracks. It’s almost funny at times, but it also screams the intent of a man who means what he’s saying. “Fuck off, the internet. I’m tired of circling amongst apologists who love ignoring the reality of unarmed citizens executed publicly,” he says, for example, on the song “To Be a Ghost…” Is it preachy at times? Perhaps, but I feel as though the campiness might add to the album in some backwards way. It feels pitifully honest at times, and if that honesty comes off sounding a little cheesy, well, then more power to it. It works.
Musically, it’s a surprisingly diverse album. I admit I’m not too familiar with punk as a genre, but this record seems almost to simultaneously buy into and destroy its tropes. There’s the aforementioned heart-throbbingly honest vocals, the overwhelming guitar environments created in each track and the fast-paced, driving beat behind each song. Rosenstock takes his chances at eclecticism, though. “Staring Out the Window At Your Old Apartment,” for example, has an organ in it with a sound that fits more into a child’s cartoon than a large church.
The album is filled with exciting highlights. “Wave to Goodnight to Me” with its memorable chorus of what sounds like several voices yelling “C’mon, c’mon get out of here!” “To Be a Ghost…,” as previously mentioned, starts as a biting political commentary punctuated with just an acoustic guitar, but the song ends in a cacophonic mess of rock beauty. The most stand-out track on the record happens to be “I Did Something Weird Last Night,” which is oddly humorous with its two completely different vocal styles: a dull, lethargic slowness and a quick, rapid-fire string of words. “June 21st” has fantastic, overlaid vocal arrangements and the appropriately named track “The Fuzz” is blanketed with overwhelming guitar. The album ends in an appropriately exciting manner with the final two tracks. “…While You’re Alive” makes great use of Rosenstock’s “crowd-yelling” vocal style, and as that track comes to its close it fades into “Perfect Sound Whatever,” an appropriately heavy finale.
“WORRY.” is a fantastic record. It has its share of filler, but the highlights more than make up for its shortcomings. The best part about this album, though, is the way it sounds throughout. It’s raw, honest, angry. Rosenstock has something to say and he gets it out of the way. Listening to it is like listening to a podcast hosted by this crazy, funny guy. “WORRY.” is an album that creates a deficit of that very emotion; it’s such an enriching piece of music that you can’t help but just forget things whilst listening. The rest of the world disappears for awhile. The way it ends correlates perfectly with the feeling it gives, too. “It doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist!” Rosenstock screams again and again as the album reaches its end. The line actually refers to the idea of perfection, but I’d like to think of it as a reference to the title of the album. In the end, despite all the stress you may have in your life, you can always plug into a good album and let the worry seep away, if not just for a little while.