Review Summary: Compromise.
Bomb The Music Industry! have never been a band to do things by halves. They are, by their nature and in a word, adamant. This doesn't mean they've ever been entirely sure of anything - you can see in the chaotic hotch-potch of musical ideas they cram into their hooks that impulse takes over more than on occasion, and those impulses are messy, overwhelming and usually incredible to behold. But 'adamant' here is a word that describes a passion - the facial expression, if you will, of the music they play. Even when vocalist Jeff Rosenstock was the voice of moderation, in songs like '(Shut) Up The Punx!!!' from 2009's superb Scrambles
, he was loud and unrelenting, in control but utterly convinced of himself. The rest of the band were similarly unrestrained.
starts unusually in that its opening track 'Campaign For A Better Weekend' sounds like a song. Not that BTMI! don't write those all the time, but the point I'm trying to make is that it's not the kind of song - at least for its first half - which knocks you back and immerses you. It begins with a lonely piano and, honestly, takes a while to get going. Eventually, the track bursts into real, energetic life, with gang vocals and liberated guitars all over the place, and Vacation
's in full swing. But this opening track's trade-off mirrors the album in one crucial way: it feels, in many regards, like a compromise.
Not that I mean 'compromise' in the sense of the negative connotations often attached to the term; this isn't BTMI! selling out, as, well, any
fan of the band will have been able to tell you before Vacation
was even announced. There are certain artists in the world that you can rely on and trust to deliver a certain type of product - they range from the predictably bland to the predictably mindblowing. BTMI! are a band that sit in the dictionary under 'energetic' and 'mental' and 'surprisingly sincere'; these things, they will always do, and Vacation
is no exception to any of those rules. 'Hurricane Waves' sees them explode into a rumbling bassline and handclaps amid screams of "You get yourself a bottle and say, 'I don't do anything any more!'"
and that moment, along with many more of equal or elevated brilliance here, yells BTMI! as soon as you hear it.
But there are also moments that don't, and with BTMI! unfortunately that's a far more jarring experience than with most bands, because a BTMI! song doesn't imply a sound like with most bands, it implies a feeling, and on Vacation
there are a few instants that feel slightly too thought-out and sit slightly too neatly alongside other more visceral passages for it to remain truly immersive over its entire runtime. A good way of stating the limiting factor of Vacation
is that sometimes Rosenstock feels like he's singing things he's at some point written down. I'm not about to imply that BTMI!'s back catalogue was vocally improvised, but it rarely sounds on Vacation
as if he's totally
lost in the music and the moment.
largely concerns itself topically with fighting past all the things that stop you from understanding where you are. The aforementioned line about getting yourself a bottle and admitting home truths is part of this, but 'Can't Complain' is a better example still of how Rosenstock approaches a balancing act. The balancing act between pop and punk, between recording and playing, between planning and winging it, is excellently executed here, but the failure to fully
commit at select points holds Vacation
back from being astounding and means that compromise, weirdly, is the right word across the board. It would be wrong to call Vacation
an absolute masterpiece; it would be just as wrong to call it simply good. It's a superbly fun and heartfelt piece of music. It just sucks that adjectives suffice.