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“We’re not gonna let them wiiiiiiiiiin / F*ck NOOOOOoooooooo!” That’s the valiant battle cry of hope punk rock hero Jeff Rosenstock leaves ringing in your ears at the end of his incredible, new album Post-. Rosenstock dropped his latest work, on the very first day of 2018, and as you pore through all nine — the first track is a five-second spoken word intro — of these defiant, angst-y, and wondrously hook-filled songs, the genius of the move becomes evident. Post- is a savage throat-clearing. A shaking off of the dogmas of a year that brought defeats, and misery, and bewilderment on a near-constant basis. 2017 was a bummer he allows. 2018 could be better if we try.
If Rosenstock’s last album Worry bottled some of the anxiety and tension that permeated the American psyche throughout 2016, Post- is a coming to grips with the fallout of the country’s decision to elect a self-serving “TV Star” to the highest office in the land. The opening track “USA” almost feels like a sonically-rendered, emotional microcosm of the night Trump got elected. First comes the bewilderment and anger. Slashing guitars, heaving drums, and the inescapable feeling that the “house burned down to the mother*cking ground!” eventually give way to an almost fugue state of feedback and sparse synth melodies as the reality of what just happened sinks in. Just as in life, however, the miasma is temporary; complaints turn into rage-fueled calls to action. Years later, when people ask me what that awful night felt like, I’d just as soon refer them to this sprawling, seven-minute piece of music.
Post- isn’t a Trump album, however. It’s more a “what are we going to do about Trump” album. Throughout the course of the record, you get the sense of a person coming to grips with what happened to their country, while also trying to figure out what they, a single human being, can do to turn the ship around. On “All This Useless Energy,” “Beating My Head Against The Wall” he crystallizes the feeling of crushing futility we all experience in the face of forces so much larger than ourselves. On “Yr Throat” and “Powerlessness” the galvanizing discovery that your voice is a weapon. On the final track “Let Them Win,” he argues that when you combine your voice with others, you can stare down malevolence and make it blink — and the shift away from “I” and “you” pronouns that dominate Post- into the more inclusive “We” is important.
As a dyed-in-the-wool DIY-er, Rosenstock is a vital avatar to drive this important message home. He’s the kind of artist who avoids the kumbaya, hokum vibe that permeates more contrived musical offerings because he genuinely lives this shit. He innately understands the power of the collective “We” and seems eager to bring others into the tent. It makes me remember the first time I had the pleasure of catching him live this last summer, during his now infamous early-afternoon set at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Rosenstock hit the stage just before 2 PM on the second day and proceeded to subvert his very presence with a joyous abandon. Even more incredibly, he made us all willing and enthusiastic participants on the joke.
Not only did Rosenstock include a track on Worry about how terrible corporate-sponsored festivals are — “Festival Song” — he had the balls to play it at full fury just a few numbers into his set. “Thank you to whoever at Pitchfork got fired for booking us for this festival,” he deadpanned, before committing a major festival no-no of divulging how much he was getting paid to entertain us: $7,500. There was Donald Trump piñatas, multiple crowd-waves, and some of the most intense punk rock Pitchfork had seen in years. By the time he jumped into the middle of the crowd, puffing vigorously into a dulled saxophone, while those around clamored just to get close to him.
As Rosenstock himself said to our own Steven Hyden recently, “Touring in 2017, it was my goal to make people happy, because it’s hard to fight anything if you forget what joy feels like. If there was a chance to say something that I thought might be a good thing to say, I would. But a lot of people are saying a lot of things, and very few people are just like, ‘All right, let’s give you 45 minutes to fucking scream and not have to think about the other things.’ Everyone I met on this tour seemed like they were just happy to be around each other.”
Now that he’s given us a year to scream, to sing, to find a reprieve from the madness and depravity that permeates our Twitter feeds and Facebook walls, on the first day of 2018 with his latest record, Rosenstock upped the ante by giving us something even more valuable: A reminder that we’re not alone. For the socially conscious among us, 2018 looks to be another prolonged year in the trenches, fighting for what many of us believe are basic human rights. There will be more defeats, more setbacks, but you know what? “We’re not gonna let them wiiiiiiiiiin / F*ck NOOOOOoooooooo!”
Post- is out now via Polyvinyl. Get it here.