Published May 25, 2020Well, he did it again. For the second time in a row, Jeff Rosenstock dropped an album without warning (the last one being POST-, which arrived suddenly on New Year's Day of 2018), thus giving the neighbourhood punks a happy surprise at a time when good news is in short supply. But despite its release coming out of nowhere, this album contains no real surprises for the Rosenstock faithful. Produced by longtime collaborator Jack Shirley and recorded with his long-serving backing band, NO DREAM delivers just what you'd expect. And as you'd expect, it rips.
Rosenstock has become one of the DIY punk scene's most likeable figures, somehow coming across as both a lovable goofball and a sociopolitical sage. NO DREAM is probably the most Jeff Rosenstock of all Jeff Rosenstock records thus far. It's fun, loud and boisterous. It's packed to the brim but sounds so simple. It's sneakily cheeky and curiously charming. It even brings a couple of his friends along for the ride with the voices of the lovely Laura Stevenson and the endearing Chris Farren. It's entertaining but very real, linking the personal and the political in a way that makes you feel like you're part of a revolution that starts right here with you.
If this album is the Jeff Rosenstockiest of all Jeff Rosenstock albums, then "N O D R E A M" might be the Jeff Rosenstockiest of Jeff Rosenstock songs. Not only a stunning political missive on violence, power and capitalism, it basically packs all of WORRY. into one neat, four-minute package, working its way from sunny '00s power-pop through to a pounding Dead Kennedys march before exploding into a rapid-fire thrash of pure, primordial punk rock, all the while using dark satire to assail the political cruelty behind mass shootings, ICE and enduring inequality.
This is pent-up anger unleashed with great delight. Rosenstock wrestles with consumerism in the peppy "Nikes (Alt)," excoriates the hypocrisy of the privileged in the happy-go-lucky "Scram!" and scrutinizes the act of complicity in the breakneck "NO TIME." When they're not overtly political, these songs nonetheless ring with solidarity. They're about personal anxieties and experiences that aren't just personal: Songs like "State Line" and "***BNB" read like Kerouacian travel entries on 21st-century life; there's a Pet Sounds-meets-Dookie quality to "Leave It in the Sun" and "Honeymoon Ashtray," making jaunty hooks out of bleak, sardonic autobiographies.
There are few bands packing this many riffs, hooks and jams into every song. There are few bands making this much noise and ruckus while at the same time being very pleasing to the ear. And there are few rock singers speaking this succinctly about collapse at the personal and societal level, with lyrics that can be effortlessly profound while also being stupidly frank. NO DREAM is punk rock that's fit for the masses without sacrificing any of its authenticity. For every catchy melody there's a brashness that says to the wrong people, "This isn't for you." But Rosenstock always makes a case for joining him in the good fight.