I love it when rockers get old. I loved it when the dude out of Superchunk started inducing his power pop with the existentialism that creeps in when he’s not writing it; I love that Stephin Merritt’s fiftieth birthday gives him an excuse to write fifty songs about being miserable; I think that every canonical recording artist through the ‘60s and ‘70s should be contractually obliged to make a record with Sunn O))). Jeff Rosenstock is only a thirty-something but I very much look forward to him, Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson getting in a room together and letting old age rip over a few loud chords.
The in with Rosenstock’s recent records is a cheap and easy one, which I hope I just set up at least a little bit: dude (a word I don’t often say, but he’s very much a dude) is getting old. At the same time as he’s growing up, his friends are growing into it: marriage, kids, jobs with computers and/or an underling staff. The pleasant living dynamics of eternity. He… is mostly drunk and yelling… about growing up. Rosenstock’s married, now, I think, maybe, do I care, so I don’t want to pile on this theory too hard -- but the cartoon version of him on We Cool?, and many of the stories told on WORRY., is very different. He’s living out piecemeal teenage love stories as a fully-fledged adult.
WORRY. studies love songs as they cross these weird [gruff voice] I’m gettin’ too old for this shit
borders of maturity and self-respect. The genres are young as shi
t: ska and pop-punk, are of course, Rosenstock’s refinements, along with silly climaxes, dumb chord progressions and epic woah oh oh ohs, which Fest goers probably sing back so as to pass the songs they appear in as official legislation. The lyrics mourn for old apartments you know only you, the one true renter, could ever truly have lived in -- a rite of passage I’m now familiar with -- or else they’re about living in inertia and wanting to leave the city. Or clinging onto friends and loved ones as life feels like it’s in a dull fade. Or feeling powerless in the face of an overwhelming amount of information that suggests you shouldn’t be. Shi
t’s all hopelessness wrapped up in pop-punk candy. It reminds me of Malcolm In The Middle, such is its level of self-destructed euphoria.
In the midst of it, my favourite thing about the record is how it wants to be as young as it feels. “I wanna listen to the Cribs, my dear / while we make out in your car” is a line Rosenstock sings amidst the kinda song I feel you could easily listen to while making out in a car. Maybe he hopes by being meta he can break the fourth wall and skip straight to the making out. It’s pure wish fulfillment -- it’s as if he’s ringing on the jail bars of adulthood and asking why it has to be just this small, shi
tey room. Meanwhile, the best song of the album and potentially all time, “I Did Something Weird Last Night”, exists on the dramatic borders of high school and college, with its lyrics about skipping class to hang out and have sex, and the inevitable anxieties that occupy your mind in every minute you’re apart -- is there a same page and are we on it. “If I see you soon will you wanna see me?”, he sings on his own, then incites a gang vocal of “Or will you just wanna sneak away?”. It’s very young adult and maybe it’d be nice if everyone could just be confused forever, rather than passing through different levels of grown-up congratulation.
But it’s not like it sounds nostalgic, like Rosenstock wasted his best years. He is not being a windbag: in fact he’s screeching his way through this thing. The second half of this record is so continuously alive, so Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down-y, so careless and inseparable, that I start to feel like a couple of hands are gonna come out of the wax and drag me in. I can see it like that scene in Star Wars where the little chess figurines get turned on and start fighting, the vinyl spinning ‘round with a mini hologram Rosenstock and his band on top. They’re playing a show, fast, one and done, getting riled the fu
ck up over just about anything, so long as they can have a bloodbath and use the word asshole.
That second half is pure DJ euphoria: it sends up a bunch of pop-punk touchstones and warbly riffs and a drum machine why not, merely reaching for the catchiest hook and saying I love you or let’s dance or fu
ck that. It feels like a proper flipped b-side, trying to wash away some of the anxieties of its first half by actually responding to them: “I gotta let you know while I’m alive / ‘cuz everybody loves you when you die” is as good an example as any, with Rosenstock doing the song equivalent of running to the airport to tell someone he loves them enough for them not to have to get on the plane. Maybe the glorious thing about WORRY. Is that he’s realised he can live the super-romantic, heart-meltingly high-stakes life he’s always dreamed of. If We Cool? Was about being afraid of settling into the rest of your life, then this one seems to be about letting yourself get carried away with whatever balloons all your now-boring friends haven't yet popped. You can be one of many in a gang vocal forever.
But yeah. The song about the internet is not very good.