Post-factual. Post-election. Post-punk. Within our shared, fracturing reality, gripped by “alternative facts” and #FakeNews, the open-ended title of Jeff Rosenstock‘s sprawling, fourth solo album, ‘POST-‘, welcomes a litany of interpretations. Literally written post-‘WORRY.‘, released a month before the 2016 presidential election, ‘POST-‘ finds the Brooklyn-based [insert sub-genre here] punk musician (loudly) vocalizing his critical perspectives on celebrity worship, insta-resistance, and political discourse over forty raucous, perplexing minutes.
Effectively book-ended by the seven-and-a-half-minute-long ‘USA’ and eleven-minute-long ‘Let Them Win’, ‘POST-‘ gleefully eschews genre conventions. Rosenstock approaches the cinematic ‘TV Stars’ with self-deprecating humor about his piano-playing while ‘9/10’ grooves along as shimmering keys garnish the sensual track. The understated synths on ‘Melba’ recall AJJ‘s ‘The Bible 2’ (2016) before bleeding into the frenetic romp that is ‘Beating My Head Against A Wall’. Almost as though Rosenstock took a “whatever, f**k it” demeanor into the recording studio, the last half of the aforementioned ‘Let Them Win’ concludes with droning synths. The result is a dazzling companion to the anxiety-stricken ‘WORRY.’, but feels lyrically underwhelming at several crucial moments. While Rosenstock assails “pat-on-the-back,” fashionable protesting on ‘Powerlessness’ and decries an unidentified individual’s refusal to hear opposing political viewpoints on ‘Beating My Head’, any critique of centering white male voices is glaringly absent throughout the album.
While the well-meaning (and absurdly invigorating) ‘Yr Throat’ finds Rosenstock asking “What’s the point of having a voice / When it gets stuck inside your throat?”, the lyrics’ poignancy and efficacy to inspire change diminish insofar as they overlook that white/cis-hetero/male voices are already disproportionately heard over marginalized ones. Rather than making the move to listen, Rosenstock attempts “[t]alk talk talk talk talking to you.” In itself, these lyrics feel innocuous, and may certainly encourage listeners to speak out against oppression; however, when (numerous white male) critics unduly laud ‘POST-‘, we ourselves are guilty of reducing “universal” experiences to those had by white men. If we are to build a post-racist, post-sexist society, we must have these difficult conversations.
If we genuinely care about accountability, as Rosenstock himself seeks on ‘Yr Throat’, we must not only hold those who hold the highest offices responsible, but, to invoke adrienne maree brown, we must recognize that “what we practice at a small scale can reverberate to the largest scale.” I myself ranked ‘WORRY.’ as my second best album of 2016. By all accounts, Rosenstock has been vocal about police brutality, corporate influences within the punk subculture, and sexual assault within and without his music, but to hold ‘POST-‘ as an immaculate artistic endeavor (rather than a solid/fine/not-excellent release) would be misguided. With this latest effort, Rosenstock attempts to strive towards a post-_______ future; while ‘POST-‘ finds Rosenstock solidifying his place within punk music, it does not do enough to disrupt the whiteness that pervades a genre which purports to resist structural oppression.