Those who regularly feel the pangs of anxiety, will find it hard not to like Jeff Rosenstock. The cover that shows his wedding celebrations with ‘WORRY’ plastered overhead, highlights the disjunction in his music, which is self-deprecating, sometimes morose, but strangely uplifting.
‘WORRY’ is Rosenstock’s third solo release, following his time fronting Bomb The Music Industry!and as a member of a handful of other bands. But it has the feel of an album that will reach a wider audience; and likely be incorrectly cited as his first solo record by many.
But the album does weirdly feel like a debut of sorts. In the documentary/surrealist horror ‘making of’ documentary – which is well worth twenty minutes of your time – Rosenstock reveals that this is the first time he’s actually had a budget before recording – “it’s a rare circumstance where we’re actually fixing the noise. Not being like ‘fuck it, we don’t have time.’”
Opening with a meandering piano ballad – ‘We Begged 2 Explode’ – it’s clear that one of the broad themes of the album is the anxiety that comes with transition. In the song’s soft moments, Rosenstock mutters – “Laura said to me: ‘This decade’s gonna be fucked; friends will disappear after they fall in love and get married.’” Before being taken over by a raucous choir singing: “All these magic moments I’ll forget; once the magic is gone.”
Rosenstock’s vocals go from remorsefully soft to yearning shouts, often without much notice. Demonstrated effectively in the scruffy but sweet ‘Pash Rash’, which starts with an off-mic acoustic guitar and quickly bursts into arm-swinging juggernaut. It’s a light and shade dynamic that Rosenstock plays with throughout the album.
As a long-time New York resident, Rosenstock often uses his music to vent about shitty rentals and “asshole” landlords. While both of these gripes are present in ‘Staring At The Window Of Your Old Apartment’, the song focuses on the melancholy of change. Rosenstock sings – “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.”
Thematically, the album also touches on police murders of unarmed black men and the ‘more connected but more alone’ feeling of our digital world, especially in ‘To Be A Ghost..’
‘Wave Goodnight To Me’ is a catchy, upbeat number, that both sounds like, and is, the obvious first-single from the record. It comes near the end of the A-side – a notable signpost before Rosenstock’s band blast through 11 songs in 19 minutes, in a medley that has had some clamouring for neat comparisons to Abbey Road.
The run of intensely sung vignettes, switch from punk; to ska; to touches of hardcore with such fluency that the buzz – of those listening to it for free on Spotify – will be ruined if they hit an advert.
The album winds up by coming back down to earth with a few sombre numbers, including ‘The Fuzz’, which presumably gives the album its title, with the line – “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; it’s worry; love is worry.”
‘WORRY’ is the most coherent example of how Rosenstock has carved out a unique place, in a well-trodden style of music, making it well worth a listen. Especially if you’re hungover – feeling sick and remorseful – but smiling.