Review: Jeff Rosenstock




Jeff Rosenstock

Ska Dream

Over the pandemic, I read a book called In Defense Of Ska. Throughout the book’s text, author Aaron 

Carnes introduced me to several bands that I had never heard of, like The Untouchables, We Are The 

Union, and Jeff Rosenstock. Sure, I went through a ska phase in my teen years — attending shows and 

listening to records from bands like Skankin’ Pickle, Suicide Machines, and The Rudiments. But by the 

time the late ‘90s hit and bands like Reel Big Fish and Mighty Mighty Bosstones were everywhere, I lost 

interest (not that I have anything against those bands or the tail end of third wave ska in general). That’s 

when I really started getting into two-tone and Jamaican ska. Anyway, after reading Carnes’ book, I started 

listening to bands like The Toasters (who I had never given much of a chance in the ‘90s) and Jeff 

Rosenstock’s solo work and previous bands (like Arrogant Sons Of Bitches and Bomb The Music Industry).

It just so happened that Jeff Rosenstock released this ska-punk record about a month before I finished the 

book. Apparently, he and his band mates were looking for a novel way to promote his 2020 record No 

Dream — since they couldn’t tour — and came up with the idea of live streaming a ska rendition of 

each song of the record. Since they soon deemed this idea unreasonable (how would they get 

everyone together for rehearsal and to perform the show with the lockdown still intact?), they opted 

instead to readapt and record each of No Dream’s tracks as ska songs. The result is one of the best 

punk-ska records ever released. Tracks like  “Ohio Porkpie,” “***SKA,” and “The Rudie Of Breathing,” 

will follow me to the grave as songs that I will always look forward to putting on my record player due

to the fact that they just make me feel better. “The Rudie…” in particular contains a couple of lines that 

hit so hard whenever I hear them: “I'm tired of knowing what about myself is wrong / But never 

mustering up the resolve to really try to change it.” And after delving into similar subject material, 

Rosenstock concludes with, “And that’s … that’s why I’m so fucking sad.” While the original track of 

the song on No Dream features a mid-tempo arrangement with distorted guitars that more closely 

matches the sullen lyrics, the ska version offers a happier, almost jovial background with which the 

listener can relate to these themes of depression, jadedness, and hopelessness. And that’s probably 

why I enjoy this record so much. Much like Rosenstock, I also dwell on issues of mental health and 

dejection, but I also enjoy not feeling like shit all the time, which is where the ska comes in. When I tell 

a lot of my friends that I’ve been listening to a lot of ska lately, I feel like I’m coming out of some weird 

musical closet. But they tend to understand (or at least, they stop pitying me) when I say, “Sometimes 

I just want to not feel fucking terrible for being alive, and that happens when I listen to ska.” Anyway,  

Ska Dream was my favorite record that came out last year.