Review Summary: This is everything a BTMI! album should be. Scratch that. This is everything a great album should be.
How in the world can one band manage to be so overwhelmingly fun" How can a band consisting of an ever changing lineup manage to craft such focused music" How can a "punk" band cram so many seemingly random instruments into one song, and never fail to make them feel like they belong there" These are just some of the questions that have been raised in my mind after listening to Bomb The Music Industry!'s newest offering, Scrambles. Though Scrambles is quite a perplexing choice for the album's title, a quick glance at the album's linear notes (or the album's page on the Quote Unquote Records website) makes the reasons for the rather odd choice abundantly clear. Nearly 20 different musicians are present in the recording, either playing one of the album's numerous instruments, or simply shouting in the background, and the album was recorded, in chunks, in somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 different recording spaces.
Though the odds against an album recorded in 10 different studios* by about 20 different musicians coming out sounding clear and focused would seem to be astronomically high, Scrambles has somehow managed to beat those odds. Throughout the album's near 40 minute duration, there is nary a misstep to be found, and every single member of what should be an overly large supporting cast of musicians contributes something interesting and unique. From the odd conglomeration of acoustic guitars, trombones, chimes, and sleigh bells on album opener Cold Chillin' Cold Chillin', to the raucous "punk rock" instrumentation of 25! mixed with crashing piano, to the frantic ska-punk stylings of (Shut) Up The Punx!!!, all the songs on offer here manage to be fairly varied and refreshing, while still retaining the overt catchiness that made their previous efforts so enjoyable (although the catchiness has been upped quite a bit here, so "contagiousness" would probably be a better word). While all of BTMI!'s albums have contained a certain level of, well, unbridled joy, Scrambles is the first offering from the band that really ups the focus on innovative musicianship, which isn't to say that it was absent from their previous outings, but it is far more noticeable here. Aside from the previously mentioned additives into their usual mixture of guitars, drums, bass, and synth, a whole slew of extra instruments have found their way into the mix here. Trumpets, drum machines, stylophones (not sure what that is exactly), melodicas, saxophones, banjos, and even a Wurlitzer have been included in the album, and somehow, nothing ever feels out of place or cluttered.
Everything else you've come to expect from BTMI! is on display here as well. Jeff Rosenstock's vocal performances are just as energetic as they've always been, and the lyrics appear to be even more tongue in cheek than usual, with Jeff spouting off a seemingly neverending slew of one liners, like "I don’t wanna be part of this line for lines, long line for lines."
and "When I’m out these days I do is complain about the booming bass and the ***ty DJ because if I wanted to go to a dance club, I’d own a bottle of Brut, a closet full of Christian Dior, and I’d be in a different room."
There were a few instances on previous efforts where Rosenstock would almost seem to run out of steam, which is understandable seeing as how he would often cram a paragraphs worth of lyrics into a few seconds worth of shouting, but instances like that are almost completely absent from scrambles, with a more pronounced focus on group vocals being mostly responsible. The subject matter of the songs is fairly varied, from the chuckle inducing "It Sh*ts!" where the phrase "it sucks" has been replaced with the title thanks to a habit of Sean McCabe, or the ode to living with your parents found in "Fresh Attitude, Young Body"**, just about every song here deals with something that somebody
should be able to relate to.
All things considered, there isn't much else Bomb The Music Industry! could have done to make this album any better than it already is. With the inclusion of so many of their like minded friends, BMTI! has managed to pull off an album that would have been nearly impossible to create otherwise, an album that ended up being just about as close to the embodiment of DIY ethics you can get (the whole thing was made for $50 for Pete's sake). Sure, you could get the whole thing for free from their website, just like the rest of their discography, but I challenge any listener to do so without feeling just a little bit guilty after they hear just how much hard work (not to mention things like "heart" and "soul") was put into this album.
*7 actual studios and other places are mentioned by name, but "various friends apartments" are also mentioned, bringing the total to 9+
**You can visit the album's page at the Quote Unquote site for a more detailed description on what the lyrical content of each song deals with/what inspired them.