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Written Before Listen

So Jeff Rosenstock is what I consider to be a 90s punk aficionado. I didn’t get introduced to his music until last year when he dropped this album to be exact. Since it got positive reviews and since I was trying to expand my musical horizons, I gave this album a shot. I didn’t mind it but I don’t remember it that much because I only gave it a listen or 2 with the exception of one or two songs. I decided to review this album due to the fact that “SKA DREAM” just came out on April 20th. “SKA DREAM” turns out to be a Ska reinterpretation of NO DREAM and before reviewing that, I’m going to go back to the album and give it a handful of listens to get a decent understanding on what the album sounded like. I also want to see how much my perception can change on this album as well. With that being said, Let’s get into it.


So Jeff Rosenstock right out of the blue sounds like he is always saying something worth listening to. There are a lot of ways to describe his lyrics. You can describe them as angry rebellion or sarcastic negativity. However you interpret his lyrics, they are always one side or the other. Thats why he isn’t noted as one of the most talented songwriters because his lyrics are straight to the point. Right off the bat on “NO TIME” he talks about accepting a world that he isn’t ok with because he “doesn’t have the time”. Songs like “Scram!” Is focused on the anger of teens protesting school and education (or at least I believe so looking at interviews. You can really interpret it anyway you could). While we also get topics like family separation on “NO DREAM” and fandom on “fame”, there are also some less serious topics on here. Songs like “State Line” and “Ohio Tpke” are all basically about being on the road. So as you can see, Jeff is not shy on showcasing his songwriting talents but do I like the lyrics? Yeah. Sometimes he can go over the top especially on the title track on that capitalist “rant” on the end of the title track or the whole premise of “Old Crap” but most of the time, his whole persona all works.


Jeff being the punk head he is goes for the basic meat & potatoes of punk music. Loose and dangly bass, distorted guitars and heavy drums. Sure there are some switches and honestly I love nearly every instrumental switch on here. The first one of course is the little drum machine beat on “Scram” but we also get a lo-fi Folk Punk intro on “Old Crap” where he kind of reminds me of that Simpsons clip where Nelson is showing Lisa guitar playing skills. I also like the synthesizers that appear in and out of a couple tracks too. Overall, I think instrumentally, the tones are on point, the instrumental switch-ups are on point and everything around it is just drenched in Rosenstock’s energy

Vocal Performance

One thing that I captured right away when I heard Rosenstock for the first time is his easily recognizable voice. Being the Power Pop Punk musician he is, his vocal style is very similar to Dexter Holland and Tom DeLonge. Another comparison I would make would be Mike Muir (of Suicidal Tendencies fame) when it comes to the edgy punk of the time. On a personal level, I think Jeffs angst and delivery are just what makes his songs so enjoyable and catchy.


Of course the Rosenstock influences are not the clearest of day because his style is like a combination of multiple. Sure You have the obvious 90s punk influence from bands like Green Day and Blink-182 but we also have the poppier side of acts like Fountains of Wayne and Weezer. There are also some subliminal nods to some Ska and also some Noise Pop worship as well. I should also mention that the track “Honeymoon Ashtray” could’ve easily worked as a Guided By Voices track. Other than that, he doesnt really show any clear influences and even the ones he does show are just hints and nothing more. He isn’t super derivative at any point here either.


There are a couple of cons with the addition of the few I already mentioned. First off is the songwriting can be a little too much for me and the whole premise of his persona is not the most original either. I also think his vocal performance is sometimes **and I mean sometimes** a little too much. I think the whole edgy and angsty persona he does is of course perfected in the best way possible but it doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to deliver vocals. He also sometimes comes off as stuck In one particular era but he goes back to those outdated styles in the best way possible.


This was great. I wouldn’t say I loved it to death but every track did hit. I think a lot of the “worst” tracks were just ones that stuck too fondly on his style. I personally think Jeffs best material occurs when he is going outside of the box and creates something new with pop punk and power pop.



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