An easy first perception is that it’s a rather personal, plain delivery of simple rebellious and emotional themes. If only taken in casually, this surface level perception may be all that is reached, and indeed is all that would be required to take in Rosenstock’s messages and meanings. I’m not really one to listen casually, though, and I rarely ever find a musician’s lyrical messages to be enough to satisfy my musical experience. In taking this in as a musical work, I find that this really does have the substance and backbone to not only enhance emotional intent, but to be a pleasing experience in isolation. The first real song “USA” started to throw me for a loop, as the overall basic organization and delivery came across as a little tongue and cheek with musical ideas being a bit careless and secondary, which I thought could have improved in order to create something of more meaning. While the light comedic air and roles within the music didn’t really change, the actual musical substance did improve and became much more enriching in its fun shapes, energetic motion, and well-worked simple harmonies. The two songs that came after the opener, ”Yr Throat” and “All This Useless Energy”, were the best examples of this on the album. The harmonic layer, hardly made up of anything more than I, IV and V chords at varying rhythmic pace, did well to drive the overall fun atmosphere and provide a good sense of stability. The quick tempos and rhythmic variance were important in maintaining this atmosphere and not letting the music drag into dullness where simplicity would’ve been less appreciative. This did happen a bit in the song “9/10” when the brakes were essentially applied to the tempo and the basic harmonies didn’t really adapt. The biggest and most important success of this album was the sheer melodicism of the whole work. These songs always put melody at the forefront, and in that way always led with the strongest musical aspect. The melodies were formed by strong intuition regarding shape and energy, always taking the lead and improving upon the simple foundations. For better or worse, that has come to be a given for music existing within this light, punk-fueled realm, but it really shouldn’t be glossed over. Musicians have struggled throughout history to find strong melodic lines when the rest of the music really depends on it. While there were some misses with a few periods that lacked engaging motion on this work, especially in the beginning verses, the melodies ultimately succeed in being the dominant layer and rightfully give the music the most weight. Where the music loses some ground is in the sonic presentation. The basic instrumentation of guitar, drums and vocals maintained a good light spirit, but that was its only real strength. The rather obstructing vocal effects and sameness in guitar strumming dialed back some of the vigor and intensity that existed in the melody. The piano sometimes took over for the guitar but did the same thing, sticking to one chord pounding technique without much range. Even if trying to come across as straightforward and plain as possible, which Rosenstock does well to do, the sound could have been more dynamic and more infused with the emotion that was given to other aspects. I’m not a huge fan of these lyrics being so decisive and crucial to the music, but it came to be fine and it did produce some nice memorable moments, such as the repeated section in the first half of the last song, “Let Them Win”. While there were spots for improvement, I ultimately enjoyed the work and believe it delivers a good punk statement.

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