Friday, March 6
Someone Call Zack Braff! Scrambles Will Change Your Life!
Artist: Bomb The Music Industry!
Comments: It doesn't matter how many times Fight Club comes on, nothing can prepare you for failure. Sure, heartbreak, lonesomeness and isolation are powerful, but there is no feeling quite like the exotic mix of apathy, self-loathing, bitter anger, and frustration that comes with hitting bottom. Finding oneself unable to live up to personal expectations, let alone the expectations of society at large, is a truly crippling thing. As an unemployed guy in his mid 20s living on the poverty line in a country falling apart from the inside out, I can understand the smoldering frustration and anger that threatens to boil over at any time. Forget high school, being on the brink of adulthood is fucking terrifying.
It's at times like this when punk rock is more important than ever. Regardless of how you wish to classify it, (as a movement, a genre, a lifestyle, etc), odds are good that we all got into it for the same reason: at some point it spoke not just to us, but for us. It gave us sense of belonging and kinship that was otherwise unavailable, not to mention a mouthpiece for the feelings we were too feeble to describe. Punk put the words in our mouths and spat them out as a defiant scream. It gave us strength when we felt weakest.
Well what was true at 16 is still true in your mid-20s. The world still makes no sense, and we still occasionally need someone to speak for us, to give our internal struggle a voice, something to sympathize, something that understands. No one comprehends this like Jeff Rosenstock, the ringleader of punk's finest musical circus Bomb the Music Industry!. Scrambles, the collective's latest album, is a testament to confusion and impotence on the doorstep of legitimacy and how we can find hope even in the face of such titanic self-doubt.
After four albums of kitchen-sink punk rock, Roesnstock's skills as an arranger and composer are fully honed and razor-sharp. Never content with simple sequences, Rosenstock has found a balance between his epic aspirations and conventional song structure, resulting in songs that throw everything together without ever sounding jumbled or unorganized. Where on previous albums songs were occasionally too excitable to be reigned in, Scrambles is a well-structured serving of fist-pumpin', boot-stompin' punk rock that manages to sound controlled without sounding limiting. Tracks like "25!" and "Sort of Like Being Pumped" are bursting with life and excitement, piling on layers of sound without ever getting too messy to enjoy. Even more scaled back tracks like "Saddr Weirdr" and "Wednesday Night Drinkball" spare themselves no indulgence without ever actually sounding indulgent.
In his book Nothing Feels Good, Andy Greenwald points out that Blake Schwarzenbach was idolized for his ability to write songs that were intensely personal yet able to appeal to a mass audience at the same time. Rosenstock also has this ability to speak for us all, to let his personal stories stand as parables and metaphors for our own lives. Scrambles finds him on the verge of becoming one of punk's most vital song writes, a low-fi Jarvis Cocker singing for the man-boys who are old enough to drink but still living in the gutter, unable to pull a life together.
The album features songs about party-going dance clubbers and their drugs of choice, losing friends when moving out of town and (of course) a track about the foolishness and hypocrisy that runs rampant within the punk scene. While these songs are certainly good, it is the ones about Rosenstock's life as a man-child living in the city that are the most impactful, the most essential to the album's emotional core. On "25!" Rosenstock breaks down burden of the late-bloomer with simple and elegant prose, cramming a lifetime of frustration and panic into a two and half minute piano stomp ("We got our ideals but no way to achieve them / We swallow our pride over piles of problems / We're reaching for answers like nobody's got 'em").
Of course, you don't have to be at a life crossroads to feel confused about what to do, and if the album was nothing more than a laundry-list of complaints and whining, it wouldn't be nearly as good. At the end of it all, however, Scrambles is an album about overcoming. Sometimes things fall apart. There are times when the rigors of life will beat down even the most optimistic of individuals. Scrambles is a life vest at those times. It is an album about spinning wheels, about hovering between adulthood and adolescence, and ultimately, about how even something as small as seeing the sunset from the back of a train can give you enough strength to carry yourself home.
Key Tracks: Stuff That I Like, It Shits!!!, 25!, Saddr, Weirdr, Young Mind Fresh Body, Sort of Like Being Pumped, (Shut) Up the Punx!!!
Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy it now. In fact, you can download it for free at the band's website, but you really should donate some money (which you can also do from the website).