Posted on December 22nd, 2009 (1:44 pm) by Tim Gilman

Over a span of four years, Bomb the Music Industry! has released five albums and a compilation consisting mainly of rare songs from out-of-print material and poorly circulated online demos. BTMI! isn't prolific for the sake of being prolific, though; each album has improved on the former with more varied songwriting. Scrambles is the latest document of this evolution and it contains the band's best music to date. Not only are all (read: all, not most) the songs great, but the lyrics are highly relevant for people struggling with fitting into the world in some way, be it by figuring out where they belong, what sort of work they wish to accomplish during their time on Earth, or how to stay happy despite these confusing problems.

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'" has a surprising (for BTMI!) restraint and unique vocal work/instrumentation (sleigh bells!) and "Drinkball" offers some ominous backup chanting and an unexpected, glorious 15-second burst of noise segueing perfectly into "25!!!." BTMI! has worked to make ALBUMS rather than a set of songs, and nowhere is this more true than on Scrambles, with the ending of each song cleverly leading into the beginning of the next.

Perhaps the most prominent example of Bomb the Music Industry!'s continuing musical evolution is “$2,400,000.” A far cry from the BTMI! of yore, the song develops slowly over the course of six minutes rather than simply blasting out of the gate. The song is all the better off for it too; after a relatively quiet introduction (including, along with guitar, whirring synths and what sounds like an electrical failure), a cacophony of noise commences, announced by an abrupt, impassioned shout of “Hey! Hey!” The slow, quiet build-up adds to the power of the rest of the song and makes “$2,400,000” one of the album's standouts, which is an impressive feat.

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 Bomb the Music Industry! albums have dealt with this theme, but Scrambles brings it to a different level. Instead of just lamenting the tough times of life, Rosenstock brushes 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 and loan owing, and moving, among other things) but doesn’t dissuade the listener from pursuing whatever he or she wishes to accomplish and does his best to remind us that life is full of awesome moments. As the 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 either let the gray skies affect your mood negatively and go through life rarely feeling happy, or you can attempt to see the sun through all the clouds and enjoy moments both big and small.

Chances are that if you can sympathize with most of the sentiments expressed in “Fresh Attitude, Young Body,” you may be a bit hard up for cash. Fortunately, you can download this album for free from Quote Unquote Records, Jeff Rosenstock's donation-based mp3 record label. Don't let some of the year's best music pass you by.

Track List:
1. Cold Chillin' Cold Chillin (1:45)
2. Stuff That I Like (2:53)
3. It Shits!!! (2:41)
4. Fresh Attitude, Young Body (3:37)
5. Wednesday Night Drinkball (2:29)
6. 25! (2:46)
7. $2,400,000 (5:57)
8. Gang of Four Meets the Stooges (But Boring) (1:10)
9. 9/11 Fever!!! (1:42)
10. (Shut) Up the Punx!!! (2:34)
11. Can I Pay My Rent in Fun? (3:01)
12. Saddr Weirdr (2:37)
13. Sort of Like Being Pumped (4:29)

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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