Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Album Review: We Cool? by Jeff Rosenstock

Jeff Rosenstock is a musician, producer and record label owner known in the worldwide punk rock scene for his strong DIY values. One of the New York natives former bands Bomb The Music Industry only ever released their music on a pay what you want basis and that along with the ability to write and perform wonderful songs and they gained an almost cult like following of fans during their existence. BTMI played their final show in New York in January 2014 and since that time Jeff, as well as producing The Smith Street Bands amazing album Throw Me In The River has been working on a brand new solo record named We Cool? I gave it a listen.

Before I heard any of the record I wasn’t really too sure what to expect musically. Would it be a more stripped back acoustic record as Jeff was going it alone or would it be a full band record like his previous bands Bomb The Music Industry or The Arrogant Sons Of Bitches? After pressing play on the opening song Get Old Forever I found out that it would be acoustic. Then about one minute into the song I found out that I was wrong and that this would be a full band punk rock party of an album. Get Old Forever is all about the insecurities Jeff feels with getting older and how he feels that perhaps he should be settling down with a steady job and have a family and not be spending his time getting drunk at house shows. He soon comes to the conclusion that he’s living a great life without having any regrets and he shouldn’t get hung up on the things he won’t achieve. This is a really strong opening track for the albums and really shows where Jeff is in his life at the moment. The second song You, In Weird Cities is another song where Jeff questions his life. He sings about missing his music friends and how they are placed all over the world. There’s a nice reference to Chris and Fitzy from The Smith Street Band amongst some others. He gets over missing his friends by listening to their records and it feeling like they are together. The vocal delivery is quick and feels urgent and the music is played at a great pace and gives the effect of chaos which is always fun. Novelty Sweater strays away from the punk sound and has a bit of an indie pop Weezer feel to it. The music is more feels way more controlled than on the previous two songs and shows off a nice variety to Jeff’s song writing skills. Song number four, Nausea is the perfect sing along party song. Lead by a piano you can’t help but to dance to this song, I’m having a little bop sitting at my desk writing this. Where the music in the song is jovial and fun the subject matter is quite different. It seems like Jeff is struggling with some anxieties about justifying his life choices to the people he loves and begins to push those people away.

Beers Alone Again is a slowed down methodical song. Because of this you can’t help but really tune into the lyrics of the song as Jeff sings about drinking by himself because all of his friends have gone out without him. I’m Serious, I’m Sorry is one of my favourite Jeff Rosenstock songs ever. Beginning with just some electric guitar and Jeff’s distinctive voice skips along at an urgent pace. This song is an apology to a friend who he failed to help grieve for a loved one. Whether the story is true or not the lyrics are incredibly powerful and moving. If you only check out one song from this album I implore you to choose this one. I don’t want to post any lyrics from it so you can go into it as fresh as I was the first time I heard it. Hey Alison is a straight forward unapologetic punk rock song with a huge chorus that you will be singing for days. Polar Bear Or Africa is another stand out track. Sound wise it’s quite hard to pin it to a certain genre, parts of it feel like a punk anthem, part of feels like a power pop song and the synthesizer gives it a feeling of something completely different. I like the cross genre nature of the song, it takes you on a rollercoaster throughout the song, keeping you wondering what will be coming next. Polar Bear Or Africa is another song about growing up and maturing. It talks about the realisation that as you get older you need to look after your body and regretting taking all the needless chances that all young people take before they know better. When you’re young you don’t think about how the choices you make in life will affect the people you love. I thought this was a really interesting and unique subject for a song.

Hall Of Fame is another methodical song. The sound is that of alternative pop music with a lot of emphasis placed on a pounding drumbeat and some distorted bass lines. The song itself is about trying to keep your place, knowing that there is always someone ready to take it when you got knocked down. All Blissed Out is the most experimental song on the record; musically I can’t really explain the sound other than being a bit strange. I don’t really like to use the word strange though as that feels negative and makes me sound like I’m saying the song is bad. The song is not bad at all. I really can’t explain this song; you’ll have to listen to it yourself. All Blissed Out does sync perfectly into the next song on the album, The Lows. This is a great drinking song and see’s Jeff’s lyrics in perfect downtrodden form again. He sings about life as a touring musician in a small band and struggling to keep a life together back home. He verse about his relationship with his parents is genius “Trade A Few Beers For Crashing On Couches, And Overstaying Your Welcome With Your Parents, They’re Furrowing Their Brows While They Wondered What Happened, They’re So Fucking Bad At Hiding Their Disappointment.” The final song Darkness Records begins like the first one began, acoustically. Like the first the song soon bursts into life and is joined by the full band and features some really rapid fire drumming before returning to the acoustics. An excellent song to close a great album.

We Cool? shows just what a talented musician and song writer Jeff Rosenstock is. The album features twelve very different songs that whilst being different still very much sound like a Jeff Rosenstock song. I think this is an album you will listen to again and again and every single time you listen to it you will find something else about it that you love. An early contender for album of the year.

Stream and buy We Cool? here: https://jeffrosenstock.bandcamp.com/

Get all the latest Jeff news here: https://www.facebook.com/jeffrosenstockmusic

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