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Written Before Listen

So Jeff Rosenstock is what I consider to be a 90s punk aficionado. It also seems like he is a ska aficionado as well. Enough to do a whole Ska reinterpretation of his 2020 album NO DREAM. The names are all replaced with ska related puns and it turns out the lyrics and I believe the chord progressions are exactly the same. Im looking forward to hearing the ska re-interpretations and I hope to like it even more than I did the original.

My Personal Experience On Ska

Prior to this review, I’ve never listened to a ska album. I didn’t grow up on Ska, Im a 2000s kid and my only true exposure of the genre are the numerous hits in the genre from the likes of Sublime, No Doubt and The Might Mighty Bosstones. As you can see, my knowledge of Ska isn’t the best. Sure I’ve gotten hints of Ska music from artists like The Clash but this is without a doubt my first formal introduction to Ska.


Let me remind you first about the original NO DREAM. The original album stuck to the elements of pop punk which was distorted guitars, loose bass and booming drums. This time, the drums are more versatile. The guitars have way more upstrokes and the bass is usually more melodic and picked. There are also additions of saxophone, cheap organs, synthesizers, electric pianos, trombones, trumpets and various percussion instruments. It’s a ska record right? There are still some hints of the original Pop Punk all over the place but a lot of the Power Pop elements are completely replaced with the ska format.


Despite being Ska’d to death, the album still has similarities instrumentally. A lot of the tracks still carry on with a Pop Punk like sound. The opening track for example still has that Skate punk energy but it’s just a little more hidden. The title track still has that hardcore transition that made the original so eye-opening. “Old SKrAp” is actually a little more Punk than ska in my opinion despite the fact that there are a lot of ska cliches on the track. Other than that (plus the lyrics and chords), this album is completely different from the original.

Other Genres

No…..It’s just not Ska and Punk on this record. Right from the track “SKrAm” we randomly transition to…Ska Trap. Yep. Believe it. SKA TRAP. WTF!??!?!? Same kind of thing happens on “Horn Line” but instead of ska trap…..IT’S SKA AND BASS!!!!!! I haven’t even mentioned the weirdest one yet. The very end of the album has an abrupt transition to a Boris song with a sludgy riff and 1 minute drone. Luckily there are some genre changes that actually make sense like the Dub influence on some of these tracks, or the experimental reggae track that “Monday at Back To The Beach” was. As you can see, this is more of a ska punk album.


Other than the genre changes. A lot of the ska that shows up here, sounds like a parody at some points with the abrupt genre changes. Luckily the lyrics and structure are still the same but a lot of my gripes on the original were not on the instrumental choices. That being said, a lot of the cons from NO DREAM still apply


Well…..It’s still Jeff Rosenstock and the fact that he didn’t change the songwriting on here makes it have a similar enjoyability rate. It’s just that I honestly just like this version a little less than the original.



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