Jeff Rosenstock - Thanks, Sorry! (Cover Artwork)

Jeff Rosenstock

Thanks, Sorry! (2019)

Really Records

What doesn’t work with this live album is a strange feeling criticism because it comes from a complimentary place in my heart. Thanks, Sorry! brings together all the many highlights of Jeff Rosenstock’s (still relatively young) solo career into a massive, energetic set-list of his signature brand of songsmithing. Staying with what works well here, the tracklist for this thing is awe-inspiring. 29 tracks unfurl 28 songs that remind you over and over just how many ohhhh-man,yeah,that’sagreatone,too, tracks Jeff has. It’s pretty diverse in origin-album selections too. Worry is best represented, inflated a bit by a hearty scoop of its b-side medley, followed by 7 tracks from his latest Post- and 6 from We Cool? There’re some outlier inclusions in addition to 3 cuts from I Look Like Shit, such as a theme song Jeff wrote for a cartoon, a song by a band Jeff wasn’t in, and new track “Beauty of Breathing”, which is nice if not exceptional. The track listing itself should be enough to provoke your purchase of tickets the next time Jeff comes through town.

I say that from experience. I’ve seen him in concert, not long after “Post-“ came out, and lemme tell you, it’s magnificent. The sound, the man in the flesh, the community spirit in the crowd, it’s all just wonderful, and rowdy, and intimate; there’s an exuberant warmth that Jeff works his ass off to foster. Top 3 show of my life. I say that mostly to convey, before I justify that starscore to the left of here, I’m a big fan of the guy and the shit he puts out. And maybe I wouldn’t have thought so little or been disappointed with this output if I weren’t. The energy, the ethos, the work ethic inherent in the finished product, I love it all and I’ll eat up the next album with all the zeal I got. But none of that magic comes through on this album. How could it?

Jeff Rosenstock’s live album doesn’t deliver a single track I’d rather listen to over its studio counterpart because he absolutely nails his studio recordings. His inflections, his timing, his delivery are thoughtful, emotional, and all the more impactful for the time and care spent recording. Most of these songs are only slightly different than the album versions, and nearly always for the worst. Two tracks, “Perfect Sound Whatever” and “Let Them Win”, take on a different life, sound, feeling in this setting but every other song only accomplishes making me want to listen to ‘the real version’. It’s a weird criticism to level because it feels almost complimentary, these sentiments wouldn’t be true if Jeff didn’t execute the hell out of these songs on their original album performances. When you expertly and deftly wrangle all of the righteous fury of “USA” in the studio, nobody’s left wondering what it’d sound like if Jeff performed it with all the righteous fury it portends, because he did, the first time. You can’t listen to a track like “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” and contemplate how raw it’d sound if the singer just went for it, man, because he did, and he put it on the album.

The criticisms I have with this live album are mostly not about its contents, but its context. Its an answer to a question I wasn’t asking. If you ever wondered what these beloved songs would sound like sloppier, speedier, and with unnecessary hey-we’re-in-New-York banter mortaring the bricks together, I’ve got an hour and a half of old songs just for you, bud.