We Cool?SideOneDummy Records
By Cole Faulkner
Jeff Rosenstock is a curious specimen in the punk rock world. Based on his track record, it’s doubtful that he ever stops writing music. Bomb The Music Industry alone amassed a voluminous discography during it’s healthy seven-year spanning catalogue, and painted Rosenstock as a man who could pretty much envision a song from any loose combination of table scraps, including (but not limited to) ska, spastic chords and scratchy, highly unorthodox jangled assortments of instruments. And for all his labour of love, Rosenstock never asks his audience for more than the possibility of a monetary donation for partaking in the fun.
Rosenstock furthers his deeply rooted philosophy while partnering with SideOneDummy Records for the release of his second full length solo offering, We Cool?. Perhaps best described as a scrappy, fuzzed-out dose of garage-tuned indie-punk (or some unconventional amalgamation of terms), the twelve-track disc rides the line between energetic and incoherent like a plugged in, rambling reimagining of Andrew Jackson Jihad.
“When your friends are buying starter homes with their accomplishments, drinking at a house show can feel embarrassing” reflects Rosenstock tunefully in opener “Get Old Forever” before blowing the roof off of any further regrets. An amalgamation of chimes, soundboard blips, horns, screeching guitars and a crunchy bass swirl irrationally into a seemingly organized and shockingly anthemic chorus statement. As with all of Rosenstock’s best work, these songs persistently walk a thin line between pleasant and unpleasant, attractive and off putting. Playing heavily on distortion and feedback, tracks like “Novelty Sweater” embrace their disjointed nature, balancing the anthemic pull of their polar counterparts. Likewise, “Nausea” ascends an early plateau with an infectious rhythm born of ear-grabbing handclaps and a chorus featuring some seriously assertive gang vocals. For all of its conventional tactics and bizarre imagery, the track is a truly tuneful crowd pleaser with the heart of a chart topping hit.
As We Cool? plays out, it becomes clear that Jeff Rosenstock makes music on his own terms. The juxtaposition inherent between downright catchy tracks like “Polar Bear Or Africa” and sonic oddities like the theremin enhanced “All Blissed Out” feels like Rosenstock’s curious little way of proclaiming that he could probably make an entire album of breakout smash hits, but by choice makes something far more provocative and compelling.
We Cool? is an awkward and exciting summary of Jeff Rosenstock’s artistic vision. Rosenstock never plays it safe, hitting listeners with his wild blend of mostly successful, highly energetic experiments. Arguably, We Cool? can go overboard at certain points, leaving listeners in somewhat of a mild state of discomfort and confision, although never for too long or for a single song. But the madness is just part of the double edged sword wielded by Rosenstock, and in many ways We Cool? could never reach its highest moments without that little bit of crazy.
So to answer the question posed by the title: yes Jeff Rosenstock, we are definitely cool.