Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Jeff Rosenstock – NO DREAM

Photo Credit: Christine Mackie / Grandstand

Your favourite punk uncle Jeff Rosenstock is back with another surprise, new record NO DREAM which was released on Wednesday (20th May 2020). From the opening moments, it is clear that Jeff has returned to his punk rock roots in Bomb the Music Industry and Arrogant Son’s of Bitches to create a release inspired by the chaos, confusion, division and despair of the last few years. JR described his look back at music being like vocabulary: “you learn new words but you don’t forget the old ones”.

Within the opening few tracks it’s clear that this is a release full of intricately considered fury. The frantic opener, NO TIME, clocks in at under a minute but provides the perfect introduction to the album, with musical and lyrical themes that are followed throughout. There is a sense of nostalgia for the EpiFat punk bands of the noughties, which perfectly fits with the fast vocal that leads to a screeching feedback climax.

The attention to detail within the transition from track-to-track is something that JR has always been masterful at. The combination of intros and outros creates a release that flows together with a chaotic, but somehow comforting, flow. There are very few people that can move from a crushing guitar riff (Scram) to vintage guitar and emotive vocals (N O D R E A M), but this just adds to the charm.

Considering this is a selection of songs that takes inspiration from previous projects, the freshness and creativity of this album comes as a surprise. Although it probably shouldn’t, considering how often JR pushes boundaries and surprises listeners. The entire release feels like a development, including everything that has come before. The frantic drumming, gang vocals and building angular guitars that close out f a m e are a prime example of this and chart Rosenstock’s entire career.

Obviously the back catalogue is not the only comparison to draw from in this collection of songs. There are nods in the direction of alternative music from all eras, creating a release that plays like a musical history lesson. The vintage touches within The Beauty of Breathing radiate sunshine and sea air. The rolling surf punk drums, harmonies and distant guitar combine The Beach Boys, Surfer Blood and Descendents into a perfect three minute pop song. There is a traditional singer-songwriter feel to Old Crap that builds from guitar and vocal to something much, much bigger with the care and consideration required for math rock.

This release is another example of well-considered songwriting, with dazzling musicianship combining with balanced political and emotional opinion, to create thirteen songs that will inspire you to think. There are moments that, despite being written pre-pandemic, seem prominent and important right now, there are messages of hope and reminders that this will all pass (hopefully) despite the current mess we find ourselves in.

This is an album that understands the importance of a hook, whether this is in the form of a catchy guitar line or a huge chorus. These moments brighten a release which tackles serious emotion, politics and mental health. These moments transport the listener to sweaty rooms and gang singing, and right now this feels like a very necessary escape.

Overall, NO DREAM is an excellent album and charts Rosenstock’s development as a songwriter, musician and person. His mature outlook combines with the sharpest sense of humour to create songs that feel comforting and thought provoking.

This album is probably the few moments of escapism that we all need.


Standout Tracks: N O D R E A M, f a m e, Old Crap

For Fans Of: Failures Union, Japandroids, The International Noise Conspiracy

Written by: Ben Adsett