Jeff Rosenstock is one of my favorite artists, though I have to admit I didn’t know he had a new album coming out until I saw it streaming on YouTube. I chalk that up to the chaos the pandemic has caused. It feels like every new music release, even by artists I enjoy, are falling into my lap randomly. In 2018, Rosenstock released the album POST-, which was, if I recall correctly, my second-favorite album that year. It was his most overtly political work, written and released in the wake of the 2016 election. I went to see Rosenstock on tour supporting that album, and it was maybe the best live show I have ever been to. The punk ethos was alive that night. And that ethos is still alive on his new album, NO DREAM.
The energy is still flowing through NO DREAM, as is the case for all his albums. A couple of the songs have a bit of a drop in energy, they are slower and more contemplative, and honestly those don’t work as well for me. For example, the penultimate song Honeymoon Ashtray is totally fine, but doesn’t grab me by the throat, it doesn’t even tug on my shirt, and also it’s lyrically a little clunky. In fact, this is probably Rosenstock’s least-successful album lyrically. The title song NO DREAM is extremely political, and since Rosenstock and I are simpatico when it comes to politics that should be right up my alley, but it’s just kind of clumsy in the verses. The part where he just repeats “It’s not a dream” for a while is infectious and packs a punch, but otherwise the song is merely fine.
That being said, I of course really enjoy this album. There are no bad songs, though there are also no great songs, at least through two listens. It’s a solid 13 songs that still are infused with a lot of punk energy. The sound of the album is still right up my alley, at least for, say, 10 of the songs. It has a lot of power behind it, and I admire Rosenstock’s political fervor even if he doesn’t always word it perfectly. This album is also not as political as POST-. It’s more a mix of politics and personal stuff, a combination of everything Rosenstock has trafficked in throughout his career. “Ohio Tpke” is a kickass closer. “NO TIME” is a strong opener. I don’t know why I mentioned them in that order.
NO DREAM is the best punk album I’ve heard this year, and it’s one of the best full stop. Now, when all is said and done I don’t expect it in my top three for 2020, and it probably isn’t quite as good as POST-. That makes sense, though. Rosenstock was able to pour all his bitterness over the current state of politics in this country into that. There’s only so much to say. I’ll definitely be listening to NO DREAM more this year. I’m still waiting for one or two songs to emerge as standouts, because I’m sure that will happen. It’s a weird year for music, for music releases, and, well, for everything and everybody. It’s not a dream. Unfortunately.