Jeff Rosenstock is a worried guy. To the fans who have followed his career through his many musical projects, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. A certain nervousness has always propelled Rosenstock’s work, resulting in either ecstasy or anxiety. On his 4th solo effort, the appropriately titled Worry, Rosenstock lets his anxieties roam free.
The worry that Rosenstock sings about on the album is hard to pin down as each song moves quickly from one anxiety to the next. Opening ballad “We Begged 2 Explode” laments the process of growing up and losing friends to babies and marriage until finally forgetting what it means to be young. “To Be a Ghost…” describes the effect of the internet and technology on our relationships and self-esteem. “Blast Damage Days” uncovers the fear of living in a world consumed by violence. Altogether, he paints a full picture of the worries that surround us in this modern age.
He releases this tidal wave of feeling through his emotionally raw lyrics. Rosenstock rarely minces words, and Worry is no exception. He favors direct statements that expose his worst fears and anxieties and provide catharsis to his listeners. “Staring Out the Window of your Old Apartment” hits particularly hard with lyrics about nostalgia and being left in the past. Rosenstock sets the scene of his old apartment perfectly: “Someone hung a decorative surfboard up/Where your movies and records belong/The light makes it nearly impossible/To see if they fixed the cracks in the wall”. He goes on to bring it all crashing down in a moment of despair, “The city don’t care if you live or die/It’s just gonna keep growing and it doesn’t care why”.
Luckily, Rosenstock balances out the emotional weight of his lyrics with his music. The songwriting itself is lively and diverse as ever. There are xylophones, synths and brass all on top of a solid pop-punk base of guitars, bass and drums. The songs also move quickly through moods and musical ideas, rarely dwelling on one thing for too long. So, while there’s a lot going on in each track, Rosenstock avoids sounding overfilled and cacophonous. Instead, the result is bombastic and exciting, keeping the energy of the album at an almost continuous peak.
However, if you’ve listened to him before, Worry will sound familiar. He pulls from all over his career for ideas: a little bit of ska from Arrogant Sons of Bitches, a pinch of last year’s We Cool?, and most notably a three song stretch of pure Bomb the Music Industry toward the end of the album. It’s not bad per se, but it does mean that Worry won’t stand out from the rest of Rosenstock’s discography. That said, he still writes great hooks and melodies that will move you raise your fist and sing along.
Worry can also be an exhausting listen. Between the themes of anxiety and the rhapsodic music, the album’s 17 songs can wear you down. It works best in small chunks instead of one big listen. Find the songs that really hit home and hold on to them for when you need to feel that emotion the most.
At the end of the day, Jeff Rosenstock deals in catharsis. It’s the reason he’s had such an impassioned fan base for so long throughout so many bands. He possesses a unique capability to say how a lot of people of are feeling without being patronizing, and that skill is very much present on Worry. While it might not stand out in its own right as an album, there are quality songs that will stand out to fans and casual listeners alike.
Alternative | Quote Unquote Records