On Jan. 1, when most of the American populace was nursing a hangover and ruing the decisions they made the night prior, Jeff Rosenstock unleashed a coup.
While we all stumbled into the New Year, Rosenstock — a veteran DIY rocker — released POST-, the most rousing and inspired recording of his lengthy career. An eccentric album comprised of post-punk, power-pop, ambient, and space-rock numbers, POST- was 2018’s opening salvo against the bloated and bullying powers-that-be.
“I really felt like it was an album I needed to release on the first day of the year,” says Rosenstock, who plays the Great American Music Hall Feb. 22. “I am a punk rocker for life, and I just feel like punk is more acute now. It is more than a philosophy at this point. We are the starting point in this fight.”
There is no mystery who Rosenstock is railing against — we’ll give you a hint: He’s orange and weighs “239 pounds” — but POST- is not some aimless, shallow screed that regurgitates the same tired talking points. And it is not filled with blink-and-you-miss it, power-chord refrains. It is a deeply ambitious project — Rosenstock’s magnum opus, in a career that dates back more than 20 years and includes stints with the Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Bomb the Music Industry!
After a brief spoken-word recording, the album kicks off with “USA,” a weaving, byzantine offering that begins as a mile-a-minute punk rock song before devolving into a drone-y, slowcore piece. “TV Stars” is a multi-suite song, split between a piano ballad and a soaring Oasis-infused Britpop jam. “9/10” is a gorgeous soft-rock tune, and “Beating My Head Against a Wall” is a blistering power pop-punk track that would be perfect on a Ramones or Replacements album.
Mirroring the ebb and flow of the music, Rosenstock’s lyrics convey an array of emotions and feelings. If POST- were simply a collection of “we’re not going to take it” songs, it would still be a fine release, but Rosenstock imbues the album with deep pathos, channeling the hopelessness of us regular folks. On “Yr Throat,” Rosenstock loudly asks, “What’s the point of having a voice / When it gets stuck inside your throat?” and “Powerlessness” explores the paralyzing fear that accompanies everyday anxiety.
“I usually write lyrics when I’m stressed the fuck out,” says Rosenstock. “And I think that is reflected in this album.”
POST- is a complicated work, but leaves us on a high note. The closing track, “Let Them Win,” is everything you could want from a punk rocker. It is a poke in the eye to authority, a rousing fuck-you and a reminder that the battle will always rage as long as people like Rosenstock are still around. It describes a depressing world of fat cats without empathy, soaking up their profits while lying to the public. It ends triumphantly, however, with Rosenstock screaming defiantly, “They’re not gonna win.”
“When I was writing that song, it was basically, ‘Fuck those people,’ ” Rosenstock says.
That is the kind of message that can only be released on New Year’s Day.
Jeff Rosenstock with Hotelier, Lemuria and ROAR, Thursday, Feb. 22, at Great American Music Hall, slimspresents.com.
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