Jeff Rosenstock- POST-

by Evan Phillips

You can’t put a price on hope, hence why Jeff Rosenstock’s new record is free and, for whatever you think its worth, you’ll find an album filled with anger, frustration, optimism and the joy of finding kindred spirits in bleak times.

The title of Jeff’s new record is never really explained in the music or the lyrics. While a lot of the song’s here might deal with the singer struggling against Post-Trump attitudes in the U.S, it’s clear we’re post a lot more than just Trump; post-2017, post-EU referendum, some going as far as saying we’re now in a ‘post-truth world’. Yet for all the doom and apathy surrounding this album, it manages to be a cautiously hopeful snapshot of a turbulent social and political climate as well as a furious punk-rock firebrand against it. This is made more appropriate by the fact these songs were recorded in secret by Jeff and friends over the last year- I like to imagine those musicians as a sort of underground rock resistance- and now the album’s out and also essentially free via Bandcamp and other ‘pay-what-you-want’ sites, keeping Jeff’s admirably charitable, grassroots approach to punk alive and well. So, I want to recommend POST- right now for not only being a very solid follow up to the excellent WORRY. from 2016, but also for being probably the best new album you can buy for the same price as a cup of coffee this year.

USA kicks us off with politically charged lyrics that dominate the album’s runtime, third line: ‘I saw the sign but it was misleading/I fought the law but the law was cheating’, while the pre-chorus picks at the wound caused by being alarmed at the prejudices of people you thought you knew, ‘Please be honest, tell me was it you?’ After three and a half minutes the weighty drum hits and distorted guitars fade away into a sweet synthesiser refrain that ushers in group vocals singing ‘we’re tired, we’re bored’ while the instrumental ramps up in the background and explodes in the last ninety seconds with a rallying three chord outro alongside the battle cry of ‘Et tu USA!’. Yr Throat takes things up another notch with rolling drums and bass riffs underpinning double time guitars as Jeff shouts ‘What’s the point of having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat?’ in the chorus. It conjures, like all of Jeff’s best songs, visions of stage divers and raised open hands in a basement room somewhere, with that same chorus amplified a hundred-fold.

Strangely, there’s a Neutral Milk Hotel style instrumental that holds up All This Useless Energy, from the scuzzy acoustic guitars in the intro and the unruly fuzz bass to the way Jeff sings, as he does on most of the tracks here, as though his lungs are about to give out; much like Jeff Mangum of NMH. The track also has the prettiest melodies so far but not to the detriment of the instrumental, which has as much heft as ever. Powerlessness, an American Idiot-esque pop-punk barnstormer, hits hard with its rapid pace that comes off like a frayed live wire; Jeff now singing about his anxieties, ‘It came on suddenly/I haven’t spoken to another person in a month’, before a tremolo picked guitar solo ushers in the outro. Meanwhile TV Stars is a piano-rock ballad about, well, TV stars and how they ‘don’t care who you are’. It’s a nice change of pace for the start of what would be Side B, and when the backing vocals and guitars rush to meet the other instrumental parts it sounds suitably huge; Jeff’s typically lo-fi recording style becoming a little bit more polished on POST- as it has been for his last few releases, to the overall benefit of the music on offer.

Melba is the only track that misses a beat if you’ll excuse the phrase. Even then the tight grooves and guitar lines are enjoyable and the lyrics concerning wanting to get away, ‘back to Melba’ specifically, are still good, but there are better tracks to be found. Beating My Head Against a Wall is one of them. It may be the shortest song here but the punchy bass lines and repeated chorus of ‘beat beat beat beat…’ evokes some of the Ramones’ catchier tunes. Then there’s 9/10, another ballad, a tender ode to a loved one with Jeff touches on his own idiosyncrasies as well. It’s rounded off with warm synth chords that lap around the verses and a glitching, sputtering guitar solo in the break. We close with Let Them Win, the album’s defining moment. It’s an eleven-minute protest-punk epic, the marching drum beat stuck to distorted bass makes the whole thing feel like a rallying cry, while the guitars sway this way and that and group vocals are shouted at full volume as Jeff proclaims, ‘We’re not gonna let them win again/fuck no!’. Essentially Les Miserables with a guitar solo, and it all climaxes in almost five minutes of synthesiser feedback. Jean Valjean eat your heart out.

POST- is not getting out of here without a recommendation, as promised at the start. It’s one thing to release what will undoubtedly be one of the best written and most passionately performed punk rock records of the year, but it is quite another to do all that and then wave the price of admission to boot. If you take anything away from POST- upon listening then, let it be the refrain of its final track; proof if ever you needed it that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s always music, and- hopefully for a long while to come- there’ll be Jeff Rosenstock to man the barricades.

Picks:

USA, All This Useless Energy, Let Them Win

Rating: 4/5/5