Jeff Rosenstock has been on the margins of my interest for a long time and yet somehow I’ve just never done more than a quick skim of his work. That changed recently and I’m slowly working my way through everything with an open mind. He’s got two songs about growing up that really caught me. These aren’t “teenager growing up” songs or even reflections on that period of one’s life (shoutout to “Seventeen”), these are twenties-into-thirties transitional growing up songs. There’s more maturity but not too much, and awareness of social and cultural norms, and a very honest look at how our identities relative to our friends naturally evolve.
I don’t want to suggest these punk-ish sing-a-longs are profound poetry, but I don’t want to say they’re not either. It’s reminiscent ofWilco’s lead-off tracks onBeing ThereandYankee Hotel Foxtrot(in more ways than one, but that’s for another post). They’re representative of a conversation an artist is clearly having within themselves that keeps seeping out into their songs. It’s something we all do – we dwell on and struggle with some idea over days, years, and even decades – but Rosenstock is (and Van Etten and Tweedy are) turning it into art.
In “We Begged 2 Explode” he laments with his friend Laura the next chapter in their social group’s lives. If he keeps playing the music he’s playing, he’s somehow immature, in their eyes and to some degree his own. He recognizes it but doesn’t know how to process it, and yet he also doesn’t want to lose what he knows are actually “magic moments.” This is what staring into the abyss sounds like.
Laura said to me, “This decade’s gonna be fucked
Friends will disappear after they fall in love
Fall in love and get married
Isn’t that shit like, crazy?
The workin’, havin’ babies and promotions?
The cheatin’, cryin’, leavin’, and divorcin’?”
As we’re bouncing up and down trying to make the floor break
Stop sneering at our joy like it’s a careless mistake
You fuckheads complain because you like to complain
Like I blame rock and roll when it’s just the champagne
That keeps me detaching from reality
Just waiting for someone to come and save me
Won’t somebody fucking please come and save me?
Oh please, hurry up, someone, come and save me
From all these magic moments I’ve forgotten
All these magic moments I’ve forgotten
In “Get Old Forever,” which is actually an earlier song, Rosenstock is focused on the relationships in his life as being the most important thing. Even as they all change, he wants the promise that his friends and family can all get old together and all get old forever. It’s a beautiful sentiment.
Breathe in deep and debride your life
Stale regrets are a waste of time
Only one thing remains secure
That we all get old together
And we all get old forever
Taken together, it’s crazy to think about how we change, our friends and family change, and how we process our own identities as the years go by. I’m really enjoying exploring Rosenstock’s catalog, if anyone else has any favorites, let me know.