2016’s WORRY. is a rare record that comes as close to perfectly encapsulating a moment as any. Not only does Rosenstock offer poignant commentary on societal issues, he taps into the overwhelming sense of anxiety felt prior to the 2016 U.S. election and recreates it flawlessly through energetic genre-blending tracks in under 40 minutes.
Following the release, many of the worries outlined in WORRY. got worse in 2017. With plenty of material to respond to, Jeff Rosenstock returned with a surprise album, POST-, released on New Year’s Day.
Coming off such a grandiose record, Rosenstock does not hesitate to shoot even higher than WORRY. The album begins with a seven-and-a-half-minute long rock opera track about the “USA”.
Rosenstock certainly isn’t holding anything back on this track as one of the first lines on the album is “trapped in my room while the house was burnin’.” Things were bad in WORRY., but on POST- things somehow got worse.
“USA” shows the pain, resentment, hope and apathy felt by many. These emotions often need a full LP to sort through, yet Rosenstock sums up the beaten public spirit in a few lines with some great backing vocals.
“Well you promised us the stars, And now we’re tired and bored,” repeat through much of the back end of the track. The realization, or lack thereof, of the American dream and the hopelessness that follows are shouted out by Rosenstock and Co. only to follow with a twist of a famous line of betrayal, “et tu, USA?”
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With the hopelessness and sense of betrayal on “USA,” Rosenstock struggles to find a sense of security or the power to change. “Powerlessness” magnifies these feelings.
“So where can you go when the troubles inside you, make your limbs feel like they’re covered in lead? How can you solve all the problems around you when you can’t even solve the ones in your head?” This question takes center stage as the main problem on POST-, and certainly on a larger scale, in the U.S. There’s no answer, but POST- offers where to look for the answer, and just as useful, what to avoid.
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A blatant place to avoid for USA’s solutions outlined by POST- is television. TV Stars quite clearly states that celebrities don’t care about us. No matter what the constant consumption of entertainment and content may make people feel, these people are not solutions to the problems facing the U.S.
It seems that the election of one TV personality was not enough for the U.S. to learn this lesson, so it seems especially fitting for Rosenstock to make it clear.
“Melba” and “Beating My Head Against A Wall” seem to offer short-term solutions of escape and forgetting. Ultimately, these songs set the stage for the comedown of “9/10.” Short-term solutions eventually fade away for the pain that was there before. “9/10” is the harsh reality that the small things we do to get by, smoking, dressing nicely, even winning a lottery ticket, aren’t enough.
We’re still stuck staring at our screens looking for answers and avoiding one another. “9/10” sees loneliness in the trend of individually working through problems, and it looks for company. This search for company is ultimately the source of power that Rosenstock finds in powerlessness.
The answer to being kicked while you’re down, hung out to dry, exploited and profited off and being afraid are found in togetherness. Rosenstock sees that we’re going through this together. This is not just something he and his friends are going through, but something many are, so many that Rosenstock sees “us” as the majority.
The answer to what is happening in the Trump era, and what was happening on WORRY. is clear. Rosenstock and many others shout out “we’re not gonna let them win, fuck no!” to close the album out. This is the rallying call for the POST- world — the world in 2018.
The track then goes into a synth outro, where if you are listening with a friend, you should talk with them. This is not an album about answers. It’s an album about energy and thinking ahead. This long outro gives the listener plenty of time at the record’s end as the listener sorts through their emotions.
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The cover of POST-, just as WORRY. was before it, wonderfully gives a visual representation of these feelings. The world is a mess on POST-.
There is not a whole lot that is going well, and on the cover, we see a janitor cleaning a store in a mall. A store where people laughed, spent, fought, contemplated, worried and, more simply, a place where people lived throughout the day is now being cleaned by an individual getting the space ready for another day. In that sense, POST- may be bleak, but there is a sense of another day, a better one.
There aren’t guidelines on how to clean the mess of POST-, but Rosenstock’s omission of solutions is not lazy. How we clean the mess of our POST– world is up to us, all that is clear is that preparing the world for tomorrow is on our shoulders.