Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gold Sounds: Bomb the Music Industry! - Scrambles review

Bomb the Music Industry! - Scrambles

Here's a big ol' review of an album I just listened to a couple hours ago, the anticipated new release from Bomb the Music Industry!

Musically, Bomb the Music Industry! has greatly evolved since its inception, gradually eschewing the breakneck speed, electronic punk/ska of their earlier albums (mostly recorded solely by BTMI! mastermind Jeff Rosenstock on his laptop) in favor of a full-band sound first displayed in their previous album, 2007's Get Warmer. Scrambles continues the full-band sound and makes it even fuller, with most songs having numerous things going on. Besides their obvious punk/ska influences, other musical influences are more apparent as well: "Cold Chillin' Cold Chillin'" opens the album with a lo-fi sound reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel, and the beginning of "Wednesday Night Drinkball" even borrows the melody of "History of the Defeated" by the Weakerthans. However, don't accuse these songs of being retreads: both retain an original sound, "Cold Chillin'" with its surprising (for BTMI!) restraint and unique vocal work/instrumentation (sleigh bells!) and "Drinkball" with its ominous backup chanting and unexpected, glorious 15-second burst of noise segueing perfectly into "25!". BTMI! has always strived to make ALBUMS rather than a set of songs, and nowhere is that more true than in Scrambles, with the ending of each song cleverly leading into the beginning of the next.

So what are these songs about? Besides, you know, throwing bombs at the music industry, Rosenstock is mainly concerned with the ups and downs of growing up in contemporary American society. Prior BTMI! albums have dealt with this theme, but Scrambles brings it to a different level. Instead of just lamenting the tough times of life, Rosenstock seems to be brushing off the negative in favor of embracing the greater good, that good being to pursue happiness. In "Fresh Attitude, Young Body," Rosenstock pairs lyrics like "If you don't find a steady job now/If you don't find someone to love now/You will die freezing cold and alone" with uplifting music: Dig that piano! Dig those hand claps! Yeah, there are a lot of pressures put on us to settle down and bring home the bucks, but what's the point if you're sacrificing what you love? In Scrambles, Rosenstock acknowledges the negative aspects of dream chasing (job searching, rent owing, and moving, among other things) but never attempts to dissuade the listener from pursuing whatever they wish to accomplish and never forgets that, hey, life is pretty great and full of awesome moments. As final song "Sort of Like Being Pumped" puts it, "I saw the sunset from the front of the J train tonight/The subway stopped and stammered and I couldn’t get my footing right/I tied my scarf for the walk home the sun went down by 5:45/But I saw the sunset tonight": Keep doing what you want to do because, even though life may throw you through the ringer, those little things will always be there to put a smile on your face and keep you going.

You can download this album for free from Quote Unquote Records. Seriously, you have no excuse not to check this album out. If you really dig it, donate some money to Quote Unquote (they make all their albums available digitally for free, including the rest of the Bomb the Music Industry! catalog) or grab a physical copy (CD or LP) from Asian Man Records, which is, for a limited time, accompanied by a zine created by Rosenstock and his friends.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best album of the year. Maybe best album of the decade.
If Bomb the Music Industry! didn't already have a place on the top shelf of music history, this album assured it. True genius.
Great review, well said.