Raise your hand if you are familiar with Jeff Rosenstock. Wait, no… put your hands down,
because I can’t see you, like, at all. Shit, this is awkward. Look, the point I’m trying to
illustrate is that if I COULD see you, then it’s likely that many of you haven’t raised your hands, which
is a travesty, because this man is a legend.
There’s a reason I decided not to put this under the Indie Radar label; Rosenstock has been
around for ages. It’s not like he’s new on the radar, but it is like the radar missed him almost completely. I
have a lot to cover, so, prepare to be bombarded by background information and a big ol’ mess of
albums. Seriously, I’m about to expose a treasure trove of music for you guys.
Starting his career in 1995, Jeff formed The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, releasing their first
album Built to Fail. It’s gritty. It’s punk. It’s ska. A tough listen if you aren’t into DIY, but it’s a
fitting start for Jeff’s eclectic career. They toured around rigorously, yet sporadically, for the next 10
years. They experienced line up changes, and many of the members quit to go college. Hilariously, in
2003, the band just started following the Warped Tour. They weren’t with the tour, they just followed
the tour, playing shows for tips outside of venues, and trying to gain fans. Evidently, it worked out for
them, because they were eventually asked to join the tour. ASOB came to an end in 2006 with the
release of their final album, Three Cheers for Disappointment, which is the definitive ska-punk album.
The album perfectly melds ska, reggae, and punk to produce a level of energy unparalleled by most
bland, cookie-cutter, copy-paste ska albums.
In 2005, Rosenstock started a solo-project, that would eventually become much more, known as
Bomb the Music Industry! (exclamation point included). He released their first album, Album Minus
Band, from the project’s official website. Soon after that, Jeff founded the record label, Quote Unquote
Records. Remember that treasure trove of music I mentioned? This is it. Bask in its glory. 65 albums.
33 bands. Oh, also, it’s free. All of it. IT’S ALL FREE. How fucking punk is that?
This is the label where basically all of Jeff’s (and a plethora of
piñatas other artists)
recorded music is released, and, according to the website, is the first donation based label. It
contains something for mostly everyone with ska, punk, hip hop, electronic, folk, indie, and even a
little metal. It marked the beginning of a new era for Rosenstock, and it was the start of his true
development as a musician.
Since then, BtMI! has developed to incorporate mostly every genre you can think of, at least at
some point. Each consecutive album culminates towards a more developed, unique sound that
melds punk with indie, and oftentimes venturing to combine string and horn compositions, along with
8-bit synths, to produce a style of music that sounds like the punk rock response to “hipster music.”
Over the course of eight (FREE) albums, Jeff rants angrily about corporate rock, but also has simple
songs about getting drunk with his friends, and just trying to find a job. In December of 2012, the single
“Big Kisses” was released to raise awareness and money for the charity named Respond & Rebuild. This charity is
working to rid toxic waste from hundreds of homes, due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many
speculate that this may very well be the last Bomb the Music Industry! song ever written, but earlier
this year, Rosenstock released a solo album, I Look Like Shit. The album is mostly a b-sides
compilation of Jeff’s work that never made it on to any of BtMI!‘s albums, but it is perhaps a hint that
he will continue to make music, despite a potential break-up.
This album functions as a great introduction to Rosenstock’s work and style. Essentially a
condensed version of his broad influences, the album has punk, indie, reggae, and folk, and provides a
stylistic overview of his music over the past 20 years. I recommend Snow Charges, 80’s Through The
50’s, and Amen.
Even though Bomb the Music Industry! is likely coming to an end, there is still plenty of
activity on quoteunquoterecords.com, with their last release in February of this year. Rosenstock’s
views on music have led him to become a “music philanthropist” of sorts, believing that music
shouldn’t be reduced to a monetary value. Instead, it should be based on having fun and
genuinely expressing oneself by “playing what you’re into, even though it’s not the current trend” (lyrics
from their song “My Response to an Article in Alternative Press”), and then sharing it with whoever wants
to listen. If you do decide to check out quoteunquoterecords.com (and you SHOULD), try starting with
I Look Like Shit, Laura Stevenson: A Record (she’s a great folk singer), or, my favorite Bomb the Music
Industry! album, Vacation. Even if you absolutely hate it, it’s free. So, go ahead, check it out, because you’ve got
nothing to lose.