Someday, we are going to look back on 2016 and remember Jeff Rosenstock’s WORRY. as a great album for all its virtues and not for how it spoke to current events. We will listen to its frenetic rhythms and sweeping melodies, and we will relate to its expression of anxiety, free of any context. WORRY. will simply be a great rock record, a paragon of pop punk. Its biting sarcasm, its contagious choruses, its backdoor hipsterdom- these will be its talking points, and not about how it speaks to “Trump’s America”.
I’ve already written a post attempting to deconstruct that phrase and to redeem it, but my review of 2002’s 25th Hour must not have made much of a dent in the larger culture. Not sure why. But there are still respectable outlets posting “Trump’s America” pieces. The most recent (and most egregious) was an article on Indiewire (an otherwise fantastic website) about how the ice cream scene from Zootopia “anticipated Trump’s America”. The post itself is fine, an exploration of how the producers and animators worked on the nuances of the scene. But that headline…yeesh.
Making everything about Trump has dumbed down every conversation worth having. Zootopia is a great movie, and I want to talk about all the ways in which it is great- the subtleties, the humor, the relationships. Zootopia isn’t great because it somehow predicted the way Trump affected our society. Zootopia is great because it reflected some truths about the world we already live in, regardless of Trump’s existence. The “Trump’s America” headlines remind me of the post-election Saturday Night Live sketch with Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock: the two black men sit in a room full of white people on election night, and the white people are freaking out. Chappelle and Rock, however, know that shit was already shitty- white people were just holding their noses. And now we’re convincing ourselves that Trump is the root of our problems rather than the fruit.
Ugh, why am I writing about Trump? All I want to do is talk about Jeff Rosenstock’s WORRY. and how great of a record it is. But then while I was doing research on Rosenstock, I came across several articles that inevitably linked his album to Trump. And I was inevitably frustrated. Granted, Rosenstock is explicit on WORRY. about current issues like police brutality (“To Be a Ghost…”) and gentrification (“I Did Something Weird Last Night”). But these were issues before Trump reared his ugly head, and they will likely continue to be issues after his retreat back to reality TV someday.
Some of these articles were great, like a Noisey feature about Rosenstock taking his band across the border to play a record release party in a Mexican club. But the best were the pieces that eschewed any mention of Trump, like this Uproxx interview, which gets at why WORRY. will be remembered as a great album years down the road: it joins other punk records like Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor, Japandroids Celebration Rock, and Beach Slang’s The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us as a sincere expression of the anxiety and ennui of your 20s and 30s.
I understand that everything Trump does and says is massive news, but I can read about that on Politico. Just because something is important, that doesn’t mean it is the only important thing. I know it’s only natural to view art and culture through the lens of the dominant story of the time. But there are other things to talk about too. The next time someone starts a conversation with me about “Trump’s America”, I’m either going to scream or I’m going to say, “Have you heard Jeff Rosenstock’s WORRY.? It’s the seminal punk album of our time,” and walk away.