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Jeff Rosenstock - Hellmode (Album Review)

Wednesday, 06 September 2023 Written by Craig Howieson

There aren’t many musicians out there like Jeff Rosenstock. Returning with his fifth solo record 'Hellmode', he is now a major player in the alternative scene, boasting healthy streaming numbers and sold out tours, while still seemingly doing whatever the hell he pleases, prioritising a genuine punk ethos and an inexhaustible work ethic.

Critical acclaim has done little to temper his pioneering spirit. If anything, his output has become wilder with each release, and 'Hellmode' arrives like a punchy cousin at the Christmas table, full of wild-eyed tales and lamentations of end days fast approaching. 

When Rosenstock wants to, he can still rock hard. The 90 second onslaught of Head is a breathless, crowd-surf-inducing spitball of a track that neatly segues into the overdrive-smitten pop-punk of I Liked You Better. 

While new listeners may hear vaguely familiar traces of PUP and the late Modern Baseball, it's worth noting that those bands — and countless others — learned the ropes from him, and would kill to make an album of this quality heading into their 40s. 

Thematically 'Hellmode' feels like a panicked reflection of modern living. It doesn’t sit still because it can’t, and as disparate musical moments vie for your attention — imitating the online onslaught we are subjected to daily — it could be easy to scramble for the nearest exit. 

But instead of being disorienting, we are encouraged to relish the chaos that Rosenstock creates. A lonesome, weeping electric guitar on Graveyard Song rings out from the melee and provides a safe vantage point to view the world starting to implode. On the sublime Future is Dumb we are reminded that the same world “doesn’t owe you,” and in a thrash of power chords and a pummelling snare drum Rosenstock seems determined to make his own luck, and have a ball while doing so.

'Hellmode' may be a bleak reflection of a civilisation on the brink of collapse, but if we are all going down in flames Rosenstock is making sure we do so while singing at the top of our lungs. 


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