Review Summary: Goodbye We Cool? World
I’m genuinely not sure how Jeff does it.
Within the last 2 years he has worked on about 6 projects, he became a husband, he had his van looted twice, and he was still able to release an album like Worry. An album so concise, detailed, conceptual, and just plain enjoyable. This is the kind of album that musicians could spend years on as their sole project and get it about half as right as Jeff does here.
Worry opens with the Beatles-esque ballad “We Begged 2 Explode”, which perfectly bridges 2014’s We Cool? and this record. The song captures We Cool?’s worry of growing old, but not necessarily growing up. Losing touch with everyone who you cared about who sold out. The stunning thing is this track sums it all up better than the majority of the songs on that album. On We Cool?, we got Jeff telling tales of being in the state of growing older and watching his friends disappear. On “We Begged 2 Explode”, we get Jeff looking back at all of it, and kicking himself for focusing so much on how his relationships dwindled over time instead of remembering the moments during the relationship that made it magic.
All in one piercing hook:
“All these magic moments I’ve forgotten…”
While it seemed like Jeff was settling into his newly found version of power-pop on We Cool?, Worry shows that he’s still experimenting with his sound. On tracks such as “To Be A Ghost”, there is a lot more influence from artists such as Elliott Smith than Weezer or Pavement. The power-pop that he does implement on this album tops that of We Cool? and rival only the catchiest choruses Bomb the Music Industry! ever had. “Pash Rash” and “I Did Something Weird Last Night” have hooks so huge and catchy that you can’t help but remember what made you fall in love with albums like Vacation in the first place.
The biggest factor that separates this album from any of his other pieces of work is how Jeff decides to punctuate it. When viewing the tracklist, it’s easy to be nervous of the daunting number of tracks on this album. After listening to the album, however, an argument can be made that there are really 11 tracks instead of 17. The final 7 tracks all flow together seamlessly in a 13-minute long epic journey through the prolific music career of Mr. Rosenstock. A celebration of the varying styles that he has mastered within his 20 years of making music. We get to hear Jeff revisit his Bomb the Music Industry! days on “June 21st”, hardcore on “Planet Luxury”, and the most pleasant surprise of all is the ska on “Rainbow”, a genre that has been long dormant for Jeff, but not one that he forgot how to master.
While the concept of presenting these 7 tracks is creative on its own, the way he executes this is nothing short of brilliant. Jeff didn’t want to just rehash his old styles, because we could all just spin “Three Cheers for Disappointment” again if we really wanted to. Within these songs, he includes concepts and sensibilities from the current state of his ever-evolving style. An example of this is on “Bang on the Door”. This would be a standard ska-punk song if it wasn’t for the bridge where we get to take a breather and listen to John’s bouncing, fuzzy bass. All over the album, Jeff is reminding us of all that he has accomplished, and at the same time he is telling us that he’s not done growing as an artist.
There are a few instances where not everything works, however. “To Be A Ghost…” drags on a bit long with its bridge, which might have been more exciting with a bit more going on. Also, most of the solos present on the album follow the main hook of the song note-for note. This could have been done to further make the album feel concise and conceptual, but it doesn’t come across this way in practice.
So, this record’s not perfect… but that’s kind of the point. While it is stated explicitly on the closer “Perfect Sound Whatever” that perfect doesn’t exist, I can’t think of a better collection of songs that more accurately represent Jeff’s career and everything that it has stood for. From “Pash Rash”, which would fit perfectly on Vacation, to the anti-establishment messages on “Festival Song” and “Hellllllhooole”, it all feels so undeniably Jeff. Jeff has done his constantly shifting 20-year career more justice than any Best Of compilation could, while at the same time showing us that he’s still growing. Not only as a musician, but as one of the most consistently great and exciting ones of the last 2 decades.