NO DREAM represents a thinning of Rosenstock’s post-2016 ethos.
Jeff Rosenstock has spent the past decade or so getting flustered and yelling at a lot of different people in power — well, more specifically, he’s filtered his usual manic-ridden angst through a more righteous political angle, making his exasperated tone feel more directed. 2016’s WORRY. and especially 2018’s POST- both capitalized on this newfound ethos, channeling as they did the frustration and despondency many carried after our most recent presidential election; he stacked power-pop anthems alongside more structurally-sound harmonies and never took himself seriously the entire time, railing against systemic injustices and oppressive authority with a velocity akin to a speeding train. In other words, they’re a lot of fun. Since things really haven’t gotten much better since since the last time we checked in on Jeff, NO DREAM feels like the appropriate endpoint for the arc he’s crafted with these last three releases: after all, who would be foolish enough to still cling to their fiddling idealism these days?
So that means we have been gifted yet another 40 minutes of Jeff screaming, hollering, and swinging his vocals between these two affects across a collection of punchy tracks before getting to the five-minute-plus “grand” closer — a structuring principle that he’s utilized two different times now, and notably in more creative ways. This is to suggest that ideas and sounds are being recycled here, as the wheel isn’t so much being re-invented as it is just intensifying ever so slightly. The opening three tracks create something of an arrhythmic flow, as the songs jitter and stutter like agitated fits of nervousness, building up grand soundscapes just to tear them down with some blurted informalities; the title track then comes in to construct a thesis, first cooed with little agency and a sense of defeatism (“They were separating families carelessly / Under the guise of protecting you and me”) before breaking into a quicker tempo with a chanted vocal delivery. It’s Jeff doing what he does best: getting mad. But as the past four years have proven, there’s limited worth in expressing pure vexation beyond self-performative means; while it was fun at first, exorcising this particular sentiment, it has turned into something of an empty gesture this time around.
Published as part of Ledger Line | Q2 2020 Issue – Part 2.