Did you know that Jeff Rosenstock released a solo album, and that it’s absolutely GREAT?
I’m completely obsessed! Except for the final track, a cover of a Japanese song that is just not quite as good as the rest. Sorry Jeff, I’m not into it. But the rest of the album is GOLDEN.
Lyrically it shares similar ground with the darkest moments from Rosenstock’s main project Bomb The Music Industry! with a number of songs taking on topics such as death, powerlessness and alienation. I think one of the reasons that I’m returning to Rosenstock’s music now (for some reason I lost interest in BTMI! after Scrambles. I think that’s just because that wasn’t my favourite album of theirs, and also I was at university and playing around with different genres of music and questioning what I liked) is how strongly I can relate to this theme running through I Look Like Shit – it feels like the musings of a person who’s had a rough year or two and is confused about what to do next. Depending on how autobiographically you want to read the lyrics you might say that Rosenstock often uses songwriting to hash out his issues, and by extension I think there’s a sense of resolution in certain songs on I Look Like Shit that isn’t present in every BTMI! song. Whereas earlier lyrics might end with a sense of contented resignation or maybe a musical explosion that’s almost like a tantrum. Um, is this a lame way for me to invoke that old cliché and say that he’s “matured” as a songwriter? Hell no, I don’t feel at all qualified to make such a judgment about people. Different approaches to problem solving are as much a presence in these songs as in BTMI! songs. Some problems don’t get solved. Some lyricists make you feel like it’s okay to get a little upset when you listen to their music, which is a skill of sorts.
I mentioned above that I kind of stopped listening to BTMI! for a while because when I was at university I became kind of a sponge absorbing everyone else’s music tastes and deciding what I thought about that. In a way I think listening to Bomb The Music Industry! was a direct precursor to my love of Neutral Milk Hotel. Both bands make music that is super intense, experimental and contemplative. BTMI! often felt like an experiment in using synths and keyboards and brass instruments while completely undermining every crass, cynical opinion people have about ska or electro pop being cliché and dorky. Similarly Neutral Milk Hotel sound like folk music evolving in a freakishly similar but also freakishly different style completely apart from what we know as folk music. Like the cactus and euphorbia evolving separately on separate continents.
Also, both bands have lead singers called Jeff.