Bomb the Music Industry! - Vacation (Cover Artwork)

Bomb the Music Industry!

Vacation (2011)

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This article is part of a series where we discuss editor Brittany Strummer's favorite records

You may have noticed that none of today's reviews focus on current releases. Rather, the records being reviewed were all chosen for their connections to late Punknews staff member, Brittany Strummer. I fully recognize that I am not the best person to memorialize Brittany, as her most active years on the site predate mine and, as a result, we rarely interacted. Despite this, I immediately became aware of her importance to the site and its surrounding community and I hold the work she did in incredibly high esteem. I was selected to write this review because, of the active Punknews staff, I most closely emulate Brittany’s passion for this particular artist. It’s worth noting that, though I could talk at you for hours about Vacation (I need to keep things brief, given the time frame I’m working with), it’s a record which manifested independently of my love of the band (I first heard of Bomb the Music Industry! after they had already broken up). Brittany’s connection with it was far more impactful. On Monday, members Jeff Rosenstock, John DeDomenici, and Mike Costa all posted statements about Brittany, thanking her for her support in spreading awareness of their music, as well as for her companionship. I don’t mean to project inadvertent interpretations, but I feel that it’s safe to say that people like Brittany manifest themselves in the content of these songs. Whether intentional or not, her mark on this world certainly seems as though it is being directly commemorated through this record.

Though bittersweet, few records have sent off an artist’s legacy more gracefully than Bomb the Music Industry!’s Vacation. It managed to interlace the rich, vibrant aesthetics the band was starting to explore with sonic homages to their unique tonal identity. The stylistic evolution it made is overt, making it a perfect bridge of the gap between this project and Rosenstock’s solo output. Yet there are certain elements of Vacation that feel distinctly Bomb the Music Industry!. While the punked-out synth arrangements, big, anthemic, melodies and overall cohesivity of the tracklist as a whole, all remain canon to Bomb the Music Industry!’s signature brand, Vacation puts forth a much mellower overall aura than any prior entry in their catalogue. “Mellow” is a comparatively used term of course, as the opening track works some tasteful blast beats to accentuate the shift out of its ethereal opening sequence. For the most part, “Campaign for a Better Next Weekend” is structurally based around a slow build, repeatedly teasing listeners with deceptive promises of release, and gratifyingly delivering on said release when it finally hits. It’s an inviting, yet off-the-rails introduction to the overarching sense of intimate grandiosity put forth across the next 43 minutes of music.

Lyrically, Vacation is constantly evoking universal sentiments through the use of specific personal anecdotes. Cuts such as “Sick, Later” and “Everybody That Loves You” play into an infectiously fun bouncy energy while exploring darker themes of human impermanence and existential confusion. There’s something about “Hurricane Waves”’s singalong “you get yourself a bottle and say, I don't do/love anything anymore" refrain that hits especially hard given its discordantly chipper tone. However, these themes are consistently balanced out with a sense of earnest optimism and recognition of inane alleviations from the weight of it all. Perhaps no moment hits harder than the mid-tracklist ballad, “The Shit That You Hate”. For starters, the way in which “Everybody That You Love,” one of album’s liveliest singles, transitions into the feebly sung solo at that start of “The Shit That You Hate” through just a 38 second instrumental is utterly seamless. The flow from track to track, as is the case with most of Rosenstock’s work, truly enhances the album’s impact and shuffle mode does not do it justice. Vacation is a textbook case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. “Sponge Board/Baby Waves”’s melancholy lead-up into first few faint minutes of “The Shit That You Hate” never fails to captivate me, and this immersion effectively heightens the magnificence of its eventual payoff. Points like this contribute to the sense of catharsis that made me fall in love with Vacation in the first place.

“Can’t Complain” is a similarly tender aside in final stretch of songs, and is one of the most moving deep cuts Bomb the Music Industry! put to tape (coming from someone who aggressively celebrates their entire catalog). That is, of course, second only to Vacation’s hidden track, “Don’t Destroy Yourself”. The first few times I heard Vacation, I was completely oblivious to its alternate ending; the standard 13 song edition is a remarkable discographical bookend on its own. “Sunny Place/Shady People” plays a similar role as “Sponge Board/Baby Waves,” picking up the where “Everyone That Loves You” left off, and setting up the momentum that “It Felt Like Vacation” launches into right out of the gate. This song feels like a distillation of every great Bomb the Music Industry! closer. It’s bombastic, structurally dynamic, full of call-backs to themes introduced earlier on the record, and it just radiates that warm, wistful temperament which was so perfectly captured in the final moments of Album Minus Band and Get Warmer.

Despite all this, “Don’t Destroy Yourself” proves to an even more conclusive finale. “Don’t Destroy Yourself” is, as far as I can tell the band’s slowest song (they’d open with it whenever their live sets were organized by speed). For the most part, its arrangement consists of just a couple of guitars, drenched in reverb as a washed out canvas for Rosenstock’s self-reflective vivid lyrical imagery and self-reflections. The whole thing is a serene resolution to the record as well as Bomb the Music Industry!’s career (yes, I am aware of the existence of “Big Kisses,” but for all intents and purposes this is their swan song; don’t come at me).

Vacation is one of the best records of the decade and, according to a large portion of the band’s fanbase (including me on select days), the crowning achievement of the project. What it lacks in the chaotic volatility and whimsy of the group’s early output is more than made up for in stellar songwriting and perfect executions of its lofty ambitions. While it’s unfortunate that Bomb the Music Industry! is no longer, Vacation was one hell of a note to go out on.