Unexpected is a term that’s been getting a lot of use lately. No one’s really sure what to expect of anything anymore. The entire planet is dwindling in what seems like a perpetual state of unknowing, and people are grasping at straws trying to fill the void. In what may be one of the only times you’ll hear ‘unexpected’ used in a positive context this side of 2021, the surprise release of Jeff Rosenstock’s NO DREAM is quite frankly something we deserve and need right now.
If you’re not in the know, Jeff Rosenstock has been at the helm of some of the best pop-punk albums going for over two decades, and it goes without saying that NO DREAM is indistinguishable in that respect. NO DREAM really drives home the crisis we’re all facing on individual levels, and brings together so many elements of his abilities as a collaborator into one concrete medium. Moving on from the crushing political blows that POST- used as a central theme, Jeff opens up more on his past concerns, as well as touching on the optimism of that which will inevitably come.
There are several topics that have been covered on previous albums that are revisited here, but this time round we’re met with new perspectives. Worry. was about that constant nagging at the back of your mind that we all have to deal with in one way or another, and although NO DREAM still deals with that steady anxiety, you can hear the personal growth contained within the lyrics. Jeff may not be over his troubles, but he’s certainly finding ways to deal with them.
A personal highlight of the album is f a m e – here the band ascends to a roar of defiance with the force of a crowd of fist-pumping adolescence. Jeff’s music has a really unique way of capturing that teenage spirit, embodying that youthful desire to make a change in the world and it’s great to hear it here, after moments on POST- which revealed the distressing nature of mistrust and vulnerability caused by unexpected shifts in the political landscape worldwide.
The two albums share their political nature, with both being released at either ends of a United States presidential election. NO DREAM is unwavering in its criticism of the government (to no surprise) and Jeff is no stranger to challenging the status quo.
The title track N O D R E A M is another standout moment, detailing that moment of blissful ignorance, trying to keep your head above water in a world that’s spiralling, before you unravel yourself. The song takes a complete tonal shift with Jeff yelling “it’s not a dream / it’s not a dream” over and over as the guitars and drums dial up to 11 to keep pace. The band have always been fantastic at this sort of dramatic change in tone, manifesting that chaotic state of mind they’ve been demonstrating to us for a number of albums now.
If there’s anything to be critical about, it’s about how many playthroughs it’s going to take to really break the surface of this album. Even four years after the release of Worry. I’m still taking away new things and hearing nuances I wasn’t even aware of years ago. The bright summery tone of this album definitely feels like it’s hiding so many of it’s messages beneath something superficial, and I can’t wait to start really digging under all those layers.
Jeff and his band have once again knocked it out of the proverbial park, delivering what is undoubtedly going to be the best pop-punk album of the year. It’s a great way to kick off a decade of big guitar-driven-angsty-pop-rock anthems and while it seems like Jeff has left third-wave ska behind, though you can still feel the spirit of it woven throughout every track. Whether or not the current crisis has influenced any aspect of the album, it certainly seems to encapsulate the concerns and issues so many of us are dealing with right now. Even the cover art captures that very essence, the tie-dye colours, the familiar but warping landscape of a home. And it just looks real cool (insert sunglasses emoji here).
Releasing an album right now must be a particularly difficult decision; making tracks for an album that likely won’t be played live for potentially an entire year and relying solely on an online audience for what might be potentially your only source of income must seem daunting, especially for indie artists who won’t have the same options as bigger artists to delay or postpone their release. I think it goes without saying that the team behind the album know what they’re doing, having released an album in 2018 without any build up, and I can only see it working for them here too, even amid the current crisis.
No dream could mean any number of things to an individual, and with so much up in the air right now it’s so easy to relate to the desire to have a grasp on something. If you’re restless, worried about your future, or just realising things likely won’t be the same again, you’ve got something in common with Jeff Rosenstock for sure.
NO DREAM was dropped out of the blue without any promotional build up. Like so many Jeff Rosenstock releases, the entire album was made available for free via the donation based record label ‘Quote Unquote Records’, so if you haven’t grabbed a copy yet now’s your chance!
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