Review Summary: Some people might say this is "pretty much the pet sounds of punk." I would suggest they learn to make sentences!
Somebody mentioned recently that Vacation
is the Pet Sounds
of punk music. Obviously, that is a ridiculous statement, but the thing is Bomb The Music Industry! fans really might think that. In today’s music scene, BTMI! might have the most slavishly devoted fan base in the US. Its interesting that all the reasons BTMI! is great to those people, the sloppy punk riffs, silly and ridiculous shouted gang vocals and hooks, the hilariously stupid (but imminently relatable and thought out) lyrics, and the disregard for songwriting conventions are why most people would HATE them, but BTMI! do everything with so much enthusiasm and energy its like watching a kid learn how to ride a bike for the first time. Its pure magic.
finally finds Jeff Rosenstock (singer and mastermind behind BTMI!) recording what could be considered to be a “normal” record. Fans would see that and cry “nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”, but it’s the exact progression they needed to make. Gone are the days of just being inane constantly and the moments of somber reality. Instead, Vacation
sees the band write songs that are tight, anthemia, and with a bit more gloss could easily be filling up an arena near you. Instead of it feeling like they’re writing ‘normal’ song though, it feels like BTMI! are taking the mainstream sound associated with rock and punk and twisting it to fit their needs. There aren’t any punches held, every song is a cacophony of the band flailing about in the classic BTMI! fashion: songs are full of crazy, bouncy synths, tempo changes and random outbursts of whoahs and ohs and nonsensical yelling.
The key to the albums success is staying true to what has always made them special as a band: the songs are fun, intimate, personal, and at times simply epic. Its hard to think that what amounts to a garage ska-punk band could make a song that swells to the heights “The Sh
it That You Hate” does, but the song moves from a quiet Jeff with just an acoustic guitar to a weird tension filled bridge, and as the strings and lightly plucked mandolin slowly give way to the full blown march the song builds into with Jeff yelling “all the sh
it that you hate don’t make you special”, you realize they finally really get it
. Of course they don’t ignore the blissfully ignorant fun side of their music, as “Everybody That You Love” and “Vocal Coach” prove. “Everybody That You Love” remains an awesome affirmation on life despite the rather horrifying circumstances the song was written about (a drug deal Jeff just happened to stumble upon, and almost got SHOT DEAD), and “Vocal Coach” is a classic loopy synth driven track, with flighty lyrics and an enormous sense of sarcasm (I mean come on, that vocal/guitar harmony though out the song?)
Songs like opener “Campaign for a Better Next Weekend” (where apparently Jeff wanted to be Chris Martin if even for just a couple minutes) and “Can’t Complain” find Jeff a lot more introspective (sounding, at least). “Can’t Complain” has Jeff sighing about having a decent life, even if sh
it ain’t all roses.
Wake up, start running for your life.
Fill the tumbler with the coffee
Feed the cat and hit the lights.
The steps are ticking counts a beat ahead of you.
The steps are keeping time.
But I can't complain.
I've got a bed I can crawl into.
I've got a bottle for the pain.
I've got a window shade I can pull right down
When the sky fills up with clouds and it looks like rain.
I can't complain.
Which sort of brings us home to the point of the album: simply finding a place in life to be happy. Throughout all the crap it throws at you, Vacation
is all about finding peace with where you are. The ‘title’ track “Feels Just Like Vacation“, a mess of synths, riffs, and furious drumming, embodies this: Jeff goes from complaining about a couple months of alienation to eventually realizing that home is whatever you make it. The final minute of “whoah oh whoah oh” that closes out the album proper is at once brilliant and impacting, and shows just how different, yet still very much ideologically the same, a band that once ended an album with the line “And if I had a big emo band or dropped out of college I would have never met you, man” can be when they’re finally all growed up.
“The point is when you got a perfect wave, a perfect anything you go for it. Don’t worry about what the shark has stuffed up his butt. I mean there will always be sharks, but how often does this once in a lifetime wave come along?.”