“NO DREAM” is Jeff Rosenstock’s Most Half-Baked Release

Cover art for “NO DREAM.”

Jeff Rosenstock is back with a brand new album just in time for the summer! Time to get out our skateboards and sing along to the songs under the sun.

In all seriousness, I was excited to see a new Rosenstock project. Pop-punk isn’t my favorite sub-genre of punk music, but I enjoyed some tracks on his last album, POST-.

The best tracks on that project included Jeff at his most ambitious and most vulnerable. “USA” was a sprawling pop-punk track that featured a dreamy ambient section, “9/10” was a mellowed out and catchy pop tune, and “TV Stars” also featured a slow progression, not typical of the power-pop formula.

The rest of the album consisted of generic power-pop and pop-punk ballads that were mostly forgettable. Still, Rosenstock stood out to me as an artist willing to experiment with the conventions of power-pop.

This brings us to Rosenstock’s latest release, NO DREAM. Much like POST-, this album came out of nowhere with no singles or fanfare. This new album features 13 songs and has a 40-minute runtime.

The album begins with the explosive and pounding, “NO TIME,” which reminds me of the pop-punk of Descendents. It’s fast, it holds no punches and Rosenstock’s vocals are on point here. It’s a great opener that also establishes some hardcore punk influences that Jeff could be pulling from.

“NO TIME” smoothly transitions into “Nikes (Alt),” a short, energetic anthem about consumerism and happiness. Jeff gets personal here as he voices anxieties about his future. This is typical Rosenstock as the melody is upbeat, yet the lyrics tell a different story.

“State Line” offers a more moderate progression as the beaming guitars and standard drumbeat move the song forward. This is another track where Rosenstock opens up about his fears and concerns. Except, this time, he’s afraid of losing his youthful energy and wants to vicariously experience it again through another person.

These tracks are fun, and they exhibit a feel-good, childlike spirit, but it was at this point in the album that I started to notice some problems.

So far, none of the melodies were sticking out as a pure Rosenstock creation. The guitar and drum progressions were average enough. There were no standout moments or unique, creative displays like POST- had with “USA” or “TV Stars” or “9/10.”

The closest I can think of is the song “Honeymoon Ashtray,” which plays like an indie rock track with the occasional shouty punk vocals. But even then, it’s not that off the wall. The progression is easy to follow, and the harmonizing vocals are sweet on the ears.

Rosenstock seems to be going through the motions as most of these melodies sound generic and forgettable.

Even when it seems Jeff is trying something different, those ideas get derailed by other random concepts that don’t mix well.

For instance, the title track, “N O D R E A M,” starts well as two-thirds of the runtime builds with shimmering guitars and a tambourine. Jeff’s anti-Trump and anti-capitalist lyrics accompany this instrumental. It’s a solid track up until the final third divulges into a hectic, hardcore punk rager. It completely threw me off since I didn’t expect a switch-up that sudden even with the guitars and drums building up. While usually, I would welcome something like this, the execution comes off as sloppy. Even Jeff’s vocals sound off here, especially as he sings, “What can we do?” It leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Another track that barely misses the mark is “f a m e.” While this is another derivative song, it had my interest with its slow buildup. However, it loses me as the lyrics, “You will not control,” are repeated to the point where it becomes mind-numbingly annoying. At some point, the millennial whoop can be heard, which made it more agonizing than it already was.

“***BNB” also utilizes the whoop, but it’s so much worse here as Rosenstock makes it fall flat. It’s cringe-inducing and makes me wonder what he was thinking. The song’s structure is also all over the place as it goes through several beat switches throughout its three-and-a-half-minute runtime. The song even concludes with an out of place hardcore drum rhythm and guitar riff and feedback.

It’s disappointing that someone as talented as Jeff Rosenstock can release a record that sounds half-baked with lazy songwriting after releasing a decent album with creatively, solid ideas.

I do appreciate Jeff’s messages and storytelling, though his messages can be vague at times.

I could have seen some of these songs working into an EP if it contained “NO TIME,” “Nikes (Alt),” “State Line,” “Honeymoon Ashtray,” and a version of “N O D R E A M,” where the climax isn’t as repetitively annoying as the original.

If you are a huge Rosenstock fan, I don’t think you’d be disappointed by this project. It is him at his rawest, and some will love that, but, for me, that rawness doesn’t translate to great songwriting.

Essential Tracks: “NO TIME,” “Nikes (Alt),” “State Line,” “Honeymoon Ashtray”





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