Review Summary: A great album for any BtMI! fan who still wants to get their Jeff Rosenstock fix this year.
It is unclear if this album is an actual debut album of former Bomb The Music Industry! and Arrogant Sons of Bitches singer Jeff Rosenstock. In it’s 10 tracks, there are cover songs (“Dishes”, “I Don’t Want To Die”), and songs that were formally released under Bomb The Music Industry! (“The Internet Is Everywhere.”, “80s Through The 50s”). It sounds like it would be a compilation album, right" Well, I find it difficult to call it that, because compilation albums shouldn’t flow this well. Or, be this good, for that matter.
The overall sound of this album is somewhat what you’d expect from a Bomb the Music Industry! album, with a slightly more “raw” feel, mainly due to it’s dark lyrics. Lyrical topics include death, loss of a friendship, fear, religion, and growing old. Another factor is the production, full of loud noisy drum machines and Jeff’s signature “doo-doo-doo’s-over-lead-guitar-riff” thing. Songs such as “The Internet Is Everywhere.” take more of a minimalist approach, with only an acoustic guitar, Jeff’s vocals, and a whistle solo. It is similar to BtMI!’s song Grudge Report, in the sense that they use a lot of the same chords and posses similar lyrical topics.
There are a number of highlights present, including the previously-BtMI! released song “80s Through The 50s”. The verses in this track are reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem’s “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”, due to it’s vocal phrasing and it’s use of retro piano. It is during this song that the whole album seems to climax. The climax starts to build up when Jeff sings the lyric “Nobody needs me” three times, each time building up more and more, until the strings come in to match the vocals, as he sings “Nobody needs me / The way that I need you”, going back into one last chorus, louder and stronger than the previous choruses. Another highlight is the 6-minute “Amen”. This is one track that will not remind you of BtMI!, because of it’s slow tempo and longer time length. It’s lyrics deal with religion, with lyrics such as “A crucifix and two framed pictures of the pope / I passed them as I got evicted from my home / My Catholic landlord screamed ‘Amen’”.
Both covers that appear here, “Dishes” and “I Don’t Wanna Die”, are highlights. “Dishes” is a Pulp cover, and fits in the album perfectly, because it showcases one of the album’s lyrical focuses, religion, with lyrics such as “I’d like to make this water wine / But that’s impossible” and “You have no cross to bear tonight”. Jeff’s version is laden with saxophones in the verses and the bridge, ska-style guitars in the chours, then overdriven guitars in the final chorus, with a lead riff coming in after he says “Oh, yeah” that gives me goosebumps every time. “I Don’t Wanna Die” is a cover of an Asian band called The Ging Nang Boyz, and is very high energy and fun, even if you can’t tell what Jeff is singing, other than the chorus (“I don’t wanna die”) and the bridge, where he screams “YES!” around 30 times.
“Bonus Oceans” is a song that has almost no resemblance to Bomb the Music Industry!, with it’s gentle, indie-style instrumentation. The song is about past friendships, but it is in this song where the most noticeable flaw in the album is. One of the lyrics in “Bonus Oceans” is “An old friend passed me on the street today / I said ‘Hello’ and tried to catch up on old times
/ She walked the other way / Maybe I seemed to scream
/ That if I got cancer or somebody shot me
/ I'd be like a child or something /
Asking doctors to do me favors
/ cross my fingers and hope it gets better
/ Like a broken record, I seem to scream / If you don't die young, you're gonna live too long”. These are some of the best lyrics Jeff has penned since he was in the Arrogant Sons of Bitches, but you can barely make out half of what he says. This is due to the guitar being in the mix much too loud. This also happens in the bridge of “80s Through the 50s”, around the point where he sings “It’s one thing to grow old, but I’m collecting dust”.
Maybe I’m knit-picking with the production value. After all, BtMI! has never had great production, other than “Vacation” and maybe “Scrambles”. This album also has a few weak points in its tracklist. “Snow Charges” drags on a minute too long and doesn’t have enough going on musically or lyrically to keep interest. “Little Blue Pills” is fun, but it sounds just a bit too much like BtMI! This would be fine, but it sticks out from the rest of the album. This is because most of the other tracks don’t sound like they would fit in on a BtMI! album (one of my favorite characteristics about the album). Also, if it were to be released under BtMI!, it would be one of the weakest tracks they would have released.
Overall, this album is a great one for any BtMI! fan who still wants to get their Jeff Rosenstock fix this year. It’s just different enough to be able to decipher the difference from a BtMI! release, but just similar enough to be able to be enjoyed by any BtMI! fan.