Like the Beyoncé of the punk rock scene, Jeff Rosenstock has a knack for dropping surprise albums that go on to be instant classics. Rosenstock has done it yet again with, NO DREAM, a record loaded from front to back that might just be his best release to date.
Rosenstock has never held back when diving into contemporary issues. WORRY summed up the anxious feelings leading up to the 2016 Presidential election, POST arrived on New Year’s Day of 2018 after a long first year of Donald Trump in office and now NO DREAM has dropped in the midst of a pandemic, mass public demonstrations against systemic racism, and political unrest before election day.
The singer comes out swinging with “NO TIME,” a 54 second loud, fast punk song that further highlights the guitarist’s strong ability to pack great songs into tiny snippets (The Ramones would be proud). This leads right into “Nikes (Alt)”, a catchy track along the lines other Rosenstock gems like “Wave Goodnight to Me,” which dives into the idea of chasing bliss to find happiness.
Next up is “Scram!,” which kicks the record into high gear with the former Bomb the Music Industry! frontman getting into his battles with those who don’t see the world the same way he does. The song is loaded with hooks, a boppy chorus, and a breakdown that’s going to 100 percent get the pits started when he plays this live.
“N O D R E A M” is very much a song for the moment. With a fuzzy guitar tone carrying the early part of the song, Rosenstock sings about how the current administration purposefully misinforms and seduces the public, like the entire country is asleep and not paying attention while they carry out their evil policies. Especially with lyrics like “They were separating families carelessly / Under the guise of protecting you and me / Jailing innocents, no hope of being free.” Eventually, the tide of the track starts to change when the song descends into chaos with a burst of energy at 2:24 that’s like a fistfight in a phone booth. Rosenstock unleashes on capitalism and the never-ending violence in our country before the song slows down and fades out.
Before I go any further, I have to say that Death Rosenstock, Rosenstock’s band, absolutely kill it on NO DREAM. Consisting of guitarist Mike Huguenor, bass player John DeDomenici, keyboardist Dan Potthast and drummer Kevin Higuchi help craft the perfect sounds that serve as a perfect pairing with Rosenstock’s vocals. For example, on “State Line,” Higuchi’s drums create the heartbeat of the track while the rest of the band delivers a whirlwind of catchy guitar riffs that help bring the song to a thundering end. They also stand out in the boisterous “f a m e,” which should be an excellent live song that will call for crowd participation.
Several parts of this album gave me the same feel as when I first heard Green Day’s American Idiot in 2004. You just knew you were listening to something special, between its political themes, outstanding instrumentals, and how they weren’t afraid to cross some lines. An example, at least sonically, is the 1-2 punch of “Leave It In The Sun” to “The Beauty of Breathing,” which seamlessly blend like many of the parts of “Jesus of Suburbia.” Both of these tracks have a more personal touch, with Rosenstock hinting at a past love interest on “Leave It In The Sun” and dealing with anxiety on “The Beauty of Breathing.”
The first half of the album is packed with enough energy to power a city, and this momentum carries over into the second half. “***BNB” finds Rosenstock singing about a stay in a stranger’s Airbnb, doing so in a cadence that bounces along as if it’s a song on Sesame Street. The lyrics can bum you out when you hear about the life of Sam, whose home is being rented out by her mother and Rosenstock’s tour life overseas. Yet, this is a track that makes you want to learn all the words.
Listeners get a chance to catch their breath on the penultimate track “Honeymoon Ashtray.” It’s still a song that will have you swaying along while Rosenstock talks of a relationship heading south while remembering the happy times of a honeymoon. This is another example of Death Rosenstock digging their claws into your eardrums with another excellent melody.
Over his last couple of releases, Rosenstock has shown that he is a master at concluding albums, especially with the run of “Bang on the Door” through “Perfect Sound Whenever” on WORRY and the epic “Let Them Win” on POST-. He keeps this streak alive on “NO DREAM,” ending the album with my personal favorite, “Ohio Tpke.” There’s just something about this song that takes away to a different place. It’s easy to lose yourself in this one, and you could find yourself constantly reaching for that repeat button so you can keep going back to that place. The stretch beginning with the lyrics “You’re the only person that I wanted to like me” all the way to ending repetition of “I hate coming home / I hate leaving home” wraps up the album, along with the beautiful fade out of keyboards at the end.
All in all, NO DREAM is an album that’s all killer with no filler. This is one you can hit play on track one and let the entire record run without skipping a beat. Rosenstock’s continues to reach new heights with each release, creating tracks that are begging to explode in live venues. His music has helped bring comfort to listeners through difficult times over the past four years, and you will find that solace within NO DREAM. Let’s just hope a different person is sitting in the Oval Office before he releases his next record.