Album Review: "Scrambles" by Bomb The Music Industry
by Nolan Vincent Ames | published Oct. 17th, 2019
At its core, “Scrambles” is an album about the chaos of life, moving and New York City — the constant scramble from one thing to another. After releasing the album in 2009, Jeff Rosenstock, leader and primary songwriter for the band Bomb the Music Industry!, put out the demo tapes from the first recordings of the album this February. It's all over the place — in a good way. The tapes combine ska, hardcore punk, lo-fi indie and electronica.
“Scrambles” begins with “Cold Chillin Cold Chillin,” a short acoustic song recorded on a Blackberry. On the album version, this also includes occasional piano lines and a synth that fades into the next song, “Stuff That I Like.” This high-energy punk track humorously details Jeff’s disillusionment with the Brooklyn music scene, with anecdotes about passing out during a cocaine party and getting drunk in his apartment room because it’s cheaper than a bar or dance club. The song ends in a high-pitched guitar crescendo followed by, in the album version, some studio chatter between band members.
This is followed by “It Shits!!!,” another fast punk track — this time about burnout from work and the effect it has on relationships. Specifically, only being able to see your significant other for an hour and falling asleep on their couch.
The next track is my personal favorite from this release, “Fresh Attitude, Young Body.” It's a piano rock song that sounds grander than anything else on the album. Here, Rosenstock talks about his need for stability, anxiety toward the future and fear that he isn’t growing up and taking on the responsibilities he should be. Notably, the guitar is much louder in the demo release than in the final version.
The track after this, “Wednesday Night Drinkball,” is one of the saddest on the album and continues with some of the lyrical themes of the last song. Rosenstock laments his growing alcoholism and failure to grow up. The album version has many differences from the demo, including string samples, backing vocals and a guitar outro.
Then follows “25!!!” — a punk song with electronica influence. On this track, Rosenstock once again talks about growing up. While he acknowledges that he is 25, he’s still dependent on his parents and acts like he’s 10 years old. The song starts off with a piano intro before shifting into rock and ending with a chiptune outro and a hip hop sample.
The next track is “$2,400,000” on the album or, as it appears on the demo, "Celebrities Gone Wild." A long and somber jam, it slowly builds to a guitar crescendo while Rosenstock sings about the greed and self righteousness of the rich and how the music business is ultimately ruled by money.
After this is “Gang of Four Meets the Stooges (But Boring),” a cathartic, hardcore punk song about a band that played a live show with Bomb the Music Industry! and then stole from them. It details the events of the night and ends with Rosenstock wishing misfortune upon the other band, including an unsuccessful album release and sugar in their gas tank.
Next comes the most political song on the album, aptly titled “9/11 Fever!”. This track contains math rock influence and criticizes how the band felt that 9/11 has become sensationalized. Rather than being seen as a tragedy of lives lost, it is instead seen as an easy way to garner support during an election campaign. The album version contains a sample of a performer heckling a punk at the end of the song, which leads into the next.
This track, “(Shut) Up The Punx!!!,” pokes fun at the phrase “Up the punx,” a common rallying chant in the punk community. Here, Rosenstock points out flaws in the punk scene while singing extremely quickly. His main point is that despite the fact that punks are supposed to be rebellious free-thinkers, they still set up strict rules within their own community on what is and is not “punk.”
Following this is an electronic punk song called “Can I Pay My Rent In Fun?” that talks about having to choose between a well-paying but soul-sucking job and an enjoyable job with poor pay. This track is based on Rosenstock losing his long-running office job because he took too much time off while touring with Bomb the Music Industry!. Throughout the song, he pleads with a woman named “Marie,” presumably his landlord that he cannot pay.
“Saddr Weirdr” comes after this, beginning with an acoustic section before picking up and turning into a rock song filled with strange samples and breaks. This track is about the melancholy of moving and leaving behind the ones you love and the fear of an uncertain future. This was written right before Rosenstock moved from Athens, Georgia back to his home of New York City, and he thanks his southern friends, regretting that he cannot fit their gifts in his moving van.
The album is then closed with “Sort of Like Being Pumped,” which starts off with an acoustic guitar and slowly adds in instruments, building to an electric guitar crescendo and ending with Rosenstock singing without accompaniment. This song is simply about enjoying the sunset and knowing that everything will work out all right in the end, finishing the album on an optimistic note.
Overall, both the album and the demos still hold up thanks to their frantic energy, emotional yet humorous lyrics and wide range of styles and influences. There’s something for everyone in "Scrambles," whether it’s punk, pop, electronica or acoustic. The songs cover a large variety of emotions, like the melancholy of “Wednesday Night Drinkball,” the anger of “Gang of Four Meets the Stooges” and the bliss of “Sort of Like Being Pumped,” while still feeling grounded and focused.
My personal favorites from this album are “Fresh Attitude, Young Body” thanks to its stellar combination of both piano and distorted guitars and “Stuff That I Like” due to its frank yet lighthearted lyrics. This is perhaps Bomb the Music Industry!'s best album and I’d recommend it and the demos to any music fan.