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Jeff Rosenstock - SKA DREAM Music Album Reviews

Jeff Rosenstock - SKA DREAM Music Album Reviews
The indefatigable punk icon reworks his anthemic 2020 album No Dream as ska, and wouldn’t you know, it works. 

Like a surfer at sunrise, or a lieutenant general girding for a melee attack, ska fans are always scanning the horizon for the next wave. The Jamaican first wave reshaped music; the British second wave proposed a cross-racial, working-class solidarity. At the back half of the 1990s, a slew of screwy ska-punk from like Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, and Dance Hall Crashers introduced the actual idea of a wave: ska as a natural, recurrent phenomenon. Since then, the big question is… has that fourth wave hit yet? Should we celebrate or dread its arrival? Are chart hits the harbingers? Perhaps it happens when ska is spliced into new contexts. At some point, the indefatigable underground punk icon Jeff Rosenstock took his place at ska’s vanguard. After the dissolution of his Long Island ska-punk act Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Rosenstock recorded an album—which he credited to “Bomb the Music Industry!”—at home. 2005’s Album Minus Band took full advantage of the bedroom format. The expected frenetic guitar upstrokes were supplemented with superhuman cymbal taps and plugin anti-theft hiss; Rosenstock leapt from folk-punk to ska-core to synthpunk like he was cutting a promo reel.

It wasn’t the shape of ska to come, exactly, but it was a bracing, omnivorous statement, one that Rosenstock elaborated upon as he added members to BtMI and styles to his repertoire. But by the time of 2011’s Vacation, the horns suggested Neutral Milk Hotel more than Mustard Plug. There were as many ska tracks as Brian Wilson-indebted wordless interludes (one). It was Rosenstock’s favorite Bomb release, and the band’s last album. Since then, he’s leaned harder into pop-punk, power pop, even heartland rock. In a 2018 interview, Rosenstock recalled his approach to Vacation. “I felt that with the songs I was writing I’d be shoehorning ska parts into them to make them ska songs,” he said. “I thought, why the fuck would I do that?”

Why the fuck indeed! On 4/20, Rosenstock announced the release of SKA DREAM, a skanktified rework of last year’s anthemic, exhausted NO DREAM. Anyone with the barest interest in Rosenstock’s career knew that this wouldn’t be some Covid-induced stopgap. Sidelined from the club circuit, free to track whatever he wanted, he chose to turn a group chat goof into a celebration of ska. To up the ante further, he did so with an expanded cast of players, all of whom had to send him their parts from across the country. Some of the guests (Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, Skankin’ Pickle singer/Asian Man Records founder Mike Park) are ska royalty; some—like Jer Hunter, the hepped-up proprietor of the popular Skatune Network channel, who contributes trumpet and trombone—are up-and-comers in the genre. Other guests are merely ska-adjacent, like Oceanator mastermind Elise Okusami and the pop-punk band PUP. And some guests, incredibly, are George Clarke of Deafheaven.

There is very little here that seems shoehorned. That’s due in large part to regular supporting cast Death Rosenstock, who utterly rearranged everything on NO DREAM. The insistent klaxon guitar intro of “State Dream” becomes an air-raid siren on the dubby “Horn Dream,” as drummer Kevin Higuchi holds down a Specials-inflected reggae lope. (At one point on SKA DREAM, Rosenstock cribs a bit of “Nite Klub.”) “Monday at the Beach” was a perfectly breakneck pop-punk number, and could have been easily translated to, like, skacore. But “Monday at Back to the Beach” slows things down to a Sublime crawl, with Rosenstock’s hazy croon suggesting Brian Wilson trying chillwave.

This is not to say Rosenstock and company overthought this: the absurdly peppy opener “No Time to Skank” matches its counterpart punch for punch. “SKrAm,” another third-wave remake, swings hard upon Rosenstock’s sturdy vocal line. At points, “SKrAm” sounds like some mythical Asian Man crossover hit from ’97. The illusion is shattered once Bay Area rapper Boboso pops up with some nerdcore bars (“Brain is feeling scrambled/Homer Simpson in the bramble”), but goofiness was integral to the third-wave project. Spiritually, it works. Lyrically, it’s the only real addition to the original album.

That’s the other reason this set holds together: Rosenstock’s a damn good songwriter. Turns out, the poignance of “Honeymoon Ashtray,” with its portrait of mutual flailing stasis, translates even if you throw a steppers’ groove on it, or chase it with toasting. On NO DREAM’s “The Beauty of Breathing,” Rosenstock uses prickly power pop to suggest his frustration with unhelpful mental-health advice. “The Rudie of Breathing” sees him withdrawing instead of pushing back, quietly keening over a midtempo 2 Tone groove and sympathetic horns.

For anyone without the constitution for ska—someone who, say, can’t see the magic when the Aquabats don spandex, deep into middle age—SKA DREAM may sound like a quarantine-induced crackup, along the lines of Old Dominion Meow Mix. (The 4/20 release date surely won’t help.) For longtime fans of the genre, though, each hup and pick it up is truly affecting. At its best, the third wave was a paradoxical state of being: profoundly goofy. Pushing Jah Jerry rhythms to absurd tempos alongside 10 of your closest friends, half of whom have known each other since seventh-grade concert band? And welding all that—the show-band brass section, the ingratiatingly chipper off beat, the dang porkpie hats—to the alienation of American punk rock? What a dream.

Regardless of its ample artistic merit, SKA DREAM represents something rare: an act re-doing an LP because they felt like it. Album do-overs are almost always undertaken under duress. In the mid-2000s, Victory Records began prepping a reissue of Catch 22’s ska-punk classic Keasbey Nights. That was unpleasant news for Keasbey’s principal songwriter, Tomas Kalnoky, who had left Catch to form Streetlight Manifesto (also signed to Victory). As a compromise, Streetlight released Keasbey Nights 2, a dutiful take that only postponed the inevitable. A more modern example would be—of course—Taylor Swift, who has a Rosenstockian propensity for surprise album releases during pandemics. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) practically invites the listener to discern how Swift’s psychographic landscape has shifted since her country-pop days. SKA DREAM is the reverse: as a goof, Rosenstock invites the past to inhabit the present. Can you believe it? The Airwalks fit.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Jeff Rosenstock - SKA DREAM Music Album Reviews Jeff Rosenstock - SKA DREAM Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 Rating: 5

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