Bomb the Music Industry!’s Vacation is the kind of album that, at first glance, seems highly, highly confusing. One might look at the band’s name and conclude that they’re a band of nihilistic punk rockers intent on bringing down the system. On the other hand, the beach scene on the cover signifies something a bit more pretty and escapist. And the fact that this album is 76 minutes long seems to contradict those other opposing ideas as well. But one solid listen to this monster of an album and everything begins to make more sense, even if in an entirely peculiar way.
Named as such as a dividing line between itself and frontman Jeff Rosenstock’s other “professional” bands, Bomb the Music Industry! began as a home-recorded, Internet-distributed project with little regard for profit or longevity. And yet, seven years later, BTMI! is still here, and offering up an album that’s not only massive, and not only much more impressive and even professional sounding than Rosenstock likely initially planned, but also an excellent album overall.
To clarify, Bomb the Music Industry! is a punk band, but one that shares more in common with the heroic sprawl of Titus Andronicus more than anyone else. In fact, that band’s The Airing of Grievances is a close analog to the kind of restlessly growing-up anarchy on display on Vacation. The group builds up from folky set-ups to gargantuan walls of fuzz and destruction, ultimately churning out a party record for anyone who prefers breaking lamps to dancing. And all the while, there’s an overarching sense of nostalgia and teenage angst that Rosenstock seems loath to let go, whether he’s declaring, “I can wait till tomorrow to pay my rent, and wait to grow up,” or confessing, “I didn’t cause too much trouble at sixteen years old,” or existentially celebrating the sobering concept that “Oh, I’m living! In a city that’s killed so many better men than me.”
Vacation is only named as such because it is an escape from the day-to-day drollery, if not necessarily to one’s happy place. There’s uncertainty and regret, sadness and doubt, but there’s also an overarching sense of empowerment and drunken revelry. This won’t destroy the music industry, and it won’t take the listener away to a tropical climate, even psychologically, but it certainly makes the summer a little more exciting.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.