Review Summary: I can't complain.
There have been some interesting arguments online about whether or not Bomb The Music Industry! are an “important” band. Some have legitimate reasons for thinking this – Jeff's DIY mentality comes to mind – but sometimes it's just the big BTMI! fanboys gushing without backing up their argument. There is a difference between a band being important for cultural reasons and a band being important because they are important to a lot of people. I would argue that there is at least a degree of importance to the band, not necessarily musically, but because of the general lyrical atmosphere. There probably hasn't been anyone more successful than Jeff Rosenstock at capturing the general spirit of being immature-bordering-on-mature, of being unsatisfied while at the same time being aware of how much of an as
shole you are for not being satisfied.
In and of itself, that's not important. What's important is that someone has described the mentality of young people without pandering to them and without resorting to writing stupid love songs or songs about heartbreak, both of which have been relatively absent from the band's discography. Bands who write only those sorts of songs aren't writing with any form of sincerity. They do it because they think that's what they have to do in order to have fans that can relate to them. You can't really blame a band for doing something like that; it's the easy path, and Rosenstock's alternative is hard. In writing songs like he does, you can never truly be certain that people will respond positively, even though logic says that many other people have been in the exact same situations. It requires a leap of faith, one that Rosenstock has made again and again. And pairing those lyrics with a sometimes abrasive, always spastic brand of punk requires a second leap of faith, because the message can so easily get lost in translation.
switches things up. It's the first truly different thing they've done. They've branched out from the usual ska-influenced punk, and it stands to reason that this is the album that will test their mettle as a band. While Rosenstock's lyrics have always been a strong point, how much of that had to do with the interplay between his voice and the music? Before Vacation
, I would have said “not much.” But now I'm not sure. Vacation
is their first “rock record,” and it does sound as if something's missing. The punch is gone from their music. I think if they make another album like this they can iron out the kinks and make a classic because the songs are there but the X-factor isn't. “Savers” is probably the best example of this. A mid-tempo song that plods along for two minutes too long, it really only picks up for the last minute or so, when a second guitar comes in along with an unexpected, pleasantly surprising violin. It's the typical BTMI! formula – add elements gradually until the song explodes – but it's exacted through typical rock instrumentation and the result is boring.
I will admit that I don't think I've been able to forge as strong of a connection with Bomb The Music Industry! as their die-hard fans have, which is interesting because I really do think they're one of the best punk bands ever. But I've never felt as if I needed them in my life, and maybe that's why I can't fully get on board with Vacation
. Everything's just been toned down. The energy, the instrumentation, even Jeff's vocals lack what used to make them so good (specifically, what comes to mind is during the second pre-chorus of “Stuff That I Like,” when his voice fluctuates so much that it sounds like there's someone else trading off vocal parts with him). I love that his lyrics are easier to understand now, because as always they are excellent, but I dislike that the music that backs him up so often seems to merely be just that – backing music.
I don't dislike Vacation
at all, and I certainly don't dislike it because I think the band has sold out or because they aren't making the music they're “supposed” to make anymore. I would never call it a bad or even mediocre album. It's great, actually. There are some fu
cking amazing songs here. But I've always expected a little more out of Bomb The Music Industry!, and what's frustrating about Vacation
is that it almost met those expectations. “Felt Just Like Vacation” is one of the best songs I've ever heard. “Everybody That Loves You,” “Sick, Later,” “Can't Complain,” and “The Shi
t That You Hate” are all similarly amazing. But I have to talk about another song I really like in order to explain why Vacation
doesn't do for me what I'd like it to. “Why, Oh Why...” embodies the album for me. I like it a lot, but it sounds like BTMI! covering another band. It honestly would not sound out of place on Bright Eyes' The People's Key
. I listen to it and I enjoy it but underneath the enjoyment is a sense of discomfiture. It's like a live recording of one of their famed cover shows – BTMI! but at the same time not BTMI!.
But I'll be honest: I don't really know what
to think about Bomb The Music Industry! anymore. I don't care whether or not they're “true punk” or if they're some bastardized form of a number of different genres. Genre isn't important. To me, they have always been their songs
. So while I can't rate this as highly as I hoped I'd be able to, a song like “Felt Just Like Vacation” seems like what this band is and has always been, different though it is. I love it. I love this band. But that's also why I don't think this is a classic. That's all I can say.