Happy Jeff Rosenstock Day!
It’s June 21st and I’m officially claiming it as “JEFF ROSENSTOCK DAY”. For those who don’t know who Jeff Rosenstock is, he’s an American musician who has a legendary underground career in punk music. He started in the ARROGANT SONS OF BITCHES, started a movement with BOMB THE MUSIC INDUSTRY! and since 2012 has rocketed his solo career with four legendary albums: I Look Like Shit, (2012), We Cool? (2015) WORRY. (2016) and POST- (2018).
I have only really known about Jeff Rosenstock for the last year. I heard a comedian recommend the album WORRY. on a radio show. I checked out the album as the description appealed to my tastes. I played the album and something clicked; WORRY. had an instant connection to me, in a way which very few artists and albums do with me. It was love at first listen. It was the only time in my life when I had finished the album, I had to immediately listen to the album again. His lyrics are incredibly incisive and hard-hitting. He discusses things from gentrification, feeling like a failing. and to living in an unjust, corrupted corporate society, whilst expressing the very human moments of happiness. The music is overwhelming succinct and his albums are superbly crafted (particularly WORRY.) with thunderous riffs, fast beats, but moments of wondrous tranquillity too. There is a element of theatrics with Rosenstock, but in a very earnest way. Never does it seem cheesy or gratuitous.
Rosenstock also puts on hell of live show. I travelled from the North East to London to see him gig. On the way down, my the girl I was seeing broke up with me over the phone. And the gig felt like I was at a Nirvana gig from the 90’s: in the first song we broke the crash barrier and we were pinned up next to the sound monitors. Absolutely manic and the whole room bouncing and singing every word. It was the best time for a break-up because I felt so perfect in the gig. It was genuinely unforgettable.
So for JEFF ROSENSTOCK DAY 2019 I’ve made a select list of my favourite Jeff Rosenstock Lyrics. His albums are so pertinent and full of gems, and they all deserve limelight, but that being said, here are the ones that resonated with me the most. Listen to the albums, but here are a few highlights from a selection of songs I love.
Get Old Forever
”When your friends are buying starter homes with their accomplishments
Drinking at a house show can feel childish and embarrassing
With people glaring because despite what the advertisements said:
Malt liquor doesn’t make you young”
These are the opening lyrics to “We Cool?” and they serve as a great start to this blog, because it serves up a scoop, of depression, social media, anti-capitalism and feeling inadequate but in a very sociable context and with a bitesize method.
It reflects the thoughts of a person who feels like they’re a failure, because they’re comparing their lives with others, and the only thing you can do is great drunk and cling onto the past. He discusses how he gets past it all in the chorus, but I think it’s fundamentally impressive to dive straight into this subject matter, but also do so in an accessible way.
….When You’re Alive
“I wanna let you know while you're alive
Because everybody loves you when you die
But when it matters, they're not there”
Brutal, yet catchy and efficient. The word economy and pacing of Rosenstock’s songs are truly magnificent. The best thing about this line, is that it can be taken as very cynical (People who only love and care for you when you are gone; and I think this is his intended meaning) or it can be taken as sweet and touching, a warning to let people know that they are loved before it’s too late.
“I got so tired of discussing my future
I started avoiding the people I love
Evenings of silence and mornings of nausea
Shake and sweat and I can’t throw up”
This whole song is an utter masterpiece. The whole song lyrics should be in (as with many of the songs) but this song an these lyrics highlight trying to do your best, but feeling like a failure. It’s should be the anthem for all millennials.
TO BE A GHOST….
“Born as a data mine for targeted marketing
And no one will listen up until you become a hashtag or a meme
But hate's not a fad that dies with its virality
They want you to be a ghost when they rob you of your hope
But you've got power when they're not expecting anything”
This is utterly incisive and everytime I listen to it, it makes me go “Holy fuck”. This whole song is intoxicating and paints a vivid picture of modern life.
“Dumbfounded, downtrodden, and dejected
Crestfallen, grief-stricken, and exhausted
Trapped in my room while the house was burning to the motherfuckin' ground
I saw the sign but it was misleading
I fought the law, but the law was cheating
Screaming for help, but somebody keeps on telling me to settle down”
Rosenstock told Exclaim! that “USA” is a song that tries to put into words the anti-Trump singer’s feelings the day after the 2016 election. “It was like the hum you feel after an electrical storm. There’s something weird in the air. I remember we were driving around the Midwest, looking at people in their cars or at the gas station thinking, ‘Did you fucking do this? What the hell?’” he says.
The first stanza is such an expertly crafted expression of a life POST-2016, where you feel hopeless and confused. I also think the line “I fought the law, but the law was cheating” is one my all-time favourite lines in a song. It’s so powerful and resonates on so many levels.
We Begged 2 Explode
“Laura said to me, "This decade's gonna be fucked
Friends will disappear after they fall in love (Fall in love)
Fall in love and get married
Isn't that shit like, crazy?
The workin', havin' babies and promotions?
The cheatin', cryin', leavin', and divorcin'?"“
Again another song about comparing your life to other peoples (maybe this is saying more about me at this point). However We Begged 2 Explode is a cacophony of brilliance. Solemn contemplation followed by chanting euphoria (another way it echoes Get Old Forever).
POLAR BEAR OR AFRICA
“But I can’t stop laughing at
The shortsightedness of childhood dreams where we’re all young astronauts
The truth is it sucks being young and in love
When you’re old you’re just bummed that you’ll never be happy enough”
Rosenstock has the capacity to be really authentic, speak truth and blow your mind in the space of a few sentences. The entirety of Polar Bear Or Africa is great for this. It’s a song about crashing his bike and getting a scar which looks like a Polar Bear or Africa. I love his mind for starting with that seed, and ending up with the lyric above. It’s amazing.
Wave Goodnight To Me
“Yeah, ignorance is bliss until the day
The things you ignored all come into focus
And those conveniences and cavities
That can't get filled 'cause you didn't notice”
What I love most about Rosenstock lyrics is that the lines are coming out at a rapid pace, that it’s possible that you miss them for the first couple of listen-throughs. That means that some of the best lyrics are the ones that have been hiding in plain sight. This is example is one that happens to me. Once it clicks into place - it’s like “holy fuck!“
“Yeah, I've got friends who wanna catch up on old times
But that just makes me feel ashamed to be me
And I've got friends who wanna relive the past
And deify memories
And they just scream to me”
Rosenstock has an uncanny skill of picking up on modern experiences, both personally, politically and socially. Talking about self-shame and rose-tinted glasses, he creates these really relatable moment like he does in “I Look Like Shit”
Staring Out The Window Of Your Old Apartment
“Staring out the window at your old apartment
Imagining the old you stumbling through tacky renovations
That the landlord wanted to cash in on the boom
And you don't know where to go now
You've got nowhere to go now”
In Worry. he talks a lot about gentrification and how the times are changing the world into a soulless husk, and he attacks lot of capitalist messages in his works (Festival Song mentions Billboards covering up the skyline for example). However in this song, and in this chorus, Jeff succinctly makes some great points, but giving a relatable message of isolation with his feeling.
“What’s the point of having a voice
When it gets stuck inside your throat?”
Nothing really more be said. Incredibly snappy and fits the thrashy sound of the song. I was very surprised when ELO get mentioned in this song.
“It's beautiful out there
There's nothing I'd rather do
Than slay the nightmare
Arm in arm with you
I didn't leave the house all day
For the last thirty Saturdays
It's time to trade the darkness for a view
Because it's June 21st”
This is so inspiring and it’s a reason why June 21st is one of my favourites. I wanted to put the whole song in. The melody truly makes this song complete as it is so joyous and proves to you that you can get better. You can escape the darkness and make it to the summer solstice where it get so much brighter. It gives us such a wondrous and earnest view into Rosenstock’s life, as he does throughout WORRY.
…When You’re Alive
“And it's not like the love that they showed us on T.V
It's a home that can burn
It's a limb to freeze
Love is worry”
I think “Love Is Worry” is a perfect summary of this song, this album and one of the most gobsmacking lyrics I’ve ever come across. I essentially have based an Edinburgh Fringe show based off of it, and I would even get it tattooed on me. It means so much to me as has done for the last year of my life. It is perfect. It is what love is to me.
Thank you for reading my Jeff Rosenblog! Please check out his albums and listen to them on June 21st! If you like it, please share it!