Review Summary: Rosenstock’s ode to the millennial despair of living in a capitalist dystopia succeeds in providing optimism to all who undertake its brief 37 minutes.
In 2014, Jeff Rosenstock’s prior band “Bomb the Music Industry” came to a close. Leaving behind the lo-Fi, DIY ska punk of “Bomb the Music Industry”, Rosenstock’s name in popular culture grew tremendously following the 2015 release of “We Cool?” Receiving both critical and commercial success (relative to BTMI!), “We Cool?” showed how Rosenstock’s songwriting matured and benefited from a cleaner, power-pop style production, courtesy of Jack Shirley (deafheaven, Joyce Manor, Loma Prieta, etc.) After a year of grueling touring, Rosenstock and Co. set up in Stinson Beach, CA to record his magnum opus, “Worry.”
When compared to “We Cool?”, “Worry.”’s production is lo-fi and harsh. The guitars screech, snares smack harder, and bass blows out the speakers. This, however, adds to the live feel of the record. Rosenstock and Co. tracked a majority of the instrumentation live. To compensate for the looser feel, an added layer of auxiliary instruments such as xylophones, synths, and ham horns fill out the sonic spectrum. While some might prefer the clearer production of “We Cool?” or “NO DREAM”, the songwriting present on “Worry.” show a growth and maturity that Rosenstock would later showcase with his composition work for the animated series “Craig of the Creek”.
Beginning with the crowd favorite “We Begged 2 Explode”, the lilting, slow waltz introduce the listener to the anti-capitalist, despondent lyrics Rosenstock is well known for. Focusing on the passage of time and futility of success in the face of a capitalist hell scape, the song begins simply with Rosenstock’s weary tenor and piano. With each passing minute, the lyrics grow more desperate and instrumentation crescendos. The band climaxes and gang vocals scream the iconic “All these magic moments I’ve forgotten”. “We Begged 2 Explodes” acts as a thesis for “Worry.”, setting the stage and preparing the listener for 37 minutes of catchy power pop despondency.
The record is split into two halves. The first half is a traditional power pop/pop punk record filled with catchy hooks mixed with misery. Songs like “Wave Goodnight to Me” and “I Did Something Weird Last Night” shine through the gloom with fast, catchy, hooky goodness. Songs like “Staring at the Window at Your Old Apartment”, “To be a Ghost”, and “Blast Damage Days” wade in the muck of 90s alt-rock slow-core.
Beginning with the song “Bang on the Door”, the record’s second and more famous half begins. The stretch of songs beginning with the boisterous “Bang on the Door” and ending with “Perfect Sound Whatever” are a song cycle that flow into each other musically and thematically. Featuring genres as varied as Hardcore (Planet Luxury), Ska Punk (Rainbow), and electro-punk (…While You’re Alive), “Worry”‘s second half is Rosenstock’s most ambitious and satisfying composition yet. Lyrically, Rosenstock focuses on the millennial experience of overpriced rental property (HELLLHOOOOLE), police brutality (The Fuzz), and exploitation of labor (Rainbow). Rosenstock most cogent and novel lyrics are found on penultimate song “…While You’re Alive.” A song about the desire to let everyone know much they matter while they’re alive, the song ends with the immortal phrase, “Worry…Love is Worry.” The albums ends with “Perfect Sound Whatever”, in which Rosenstock and Co. scream “Perfect always takes so long, because it doesn’t exist”.
While some listeners might lament the imperfect vocal performances from Rosenstock, the songwriting, lyrics, production, and ambition make up for any occasional flat notes. “Worry.” is Jeff Rosenstock’s most critically acclaimed record for a reason. Those who listen to “Worry.” leave feeling optimistic that someone knows and hears their fears; that despite their anxiety about an uncertain future, there is hope in worry and freedom in imperfection.