Bomb the Music Industry! – An Epitaph
Everybody that loves you / will be leaving someday soon
It’s been almost a year since Bomb the Music Industry! called it quits, and I’ve only just realized that I haven’t sat down and said “you know what? I loved this band,” (emphasis on the past tense). I mean, I’ve listened to BtMI! hundreds of times since their breakup, but it was only tonight while nostalgically listening to Adults!!! that I actually sat down and realized what it means to say that “BtMI! are over. They broke up.”
You have to understand that Bomb! were something incredible. They brought together a Fugazi DIY ethic, a vitally human personality, and a musical output which spanned a huge range in not just genre but also emotion: from gut-wrenching folk singalongs to intensely fun spastic-ska-electronic-God-knows-what. It’s a combination that was unbelievably perfect—that someone like Jeff Rosenstock could express to us through thoroughly incredible music and a saintly approach to the business side of music that he felt failure and depression and loneliness—despite all his grandiose achievements, he was still human. I guess it’s the ultimate statement on the disillusionment entailed in living a normal life in this day and age. Finding something that you love and pouring your heart into it will always be what BtMI! represents to me.
The breakup of Bomb! specifically feels a bit like something (or someone) vital in your life dying: it’s the realization that nothing will ever come close to what this band was. Listening to Bomb! now truly evokes the sentiment that you don’t appreciate the things you love most until they’re gone. I only saw the band live once, and it was a short set in which they played maybe ten songs. Out of six brilliant studio albums, a few EPs and an array of miscellaneous material, this was honestly miniscule. And it’s heartbreaking that I could have seen Jeff live only a year prior for $10 but passed it up for a reason I can no longer even remember. But then you think “hey, Bomb! was pretty much completely written and recorded by Jeff, and he’s still doing solo stuff”. In truth, this isn’t so much of a reassuring thought. When we came to Vacation, BtMI! was finally a conventional band: it took them six albums and an EP, but Jeff wasn’t really a spastic nutbag anymore, and that’s depressing, even if Vacation is a borderline perfect record. The final nail in the coffin for me was when Jeff put out his “Teenager” single, and it was clear that Jeff was never going to write entirely crazy records again. It’s not like I blame the guy, but with Bomb! over I don’t think we’ll see another “Side Projects Are Never Successful” or “Blow Your Brains Out on Live TV” again, live or otherwise: those songs were crazy, invigorating and fucking beautiful but, above all, they were completely unique. Where giants of music have come and gone, there have often been bands of a similar sound to carry on the legacy, but the breakup of BtMI! was one of those moments where you knew that we would never see anything of the like ever again. Bomb! went the way of the dinosaur or the Tasmanian tiger or the woolly mother-fucking mammoth and only left behind the bones that are their records for us to marvel at what once was.
BtMI! breaking up did give me something positive, however: I can say honestly that they are my favourite band of all time and I highly doubt that that will ever change. I have this theory that the best bands are always the ones that have broken up, and that cliché that “you don’t fully appreciate the things you love most until they’re gone” plays into it. Moreover, BtMI! ended the journey in the most wonderful of ways that was Vacation. Not only was it more than we could ask for in a record, but it closed at a place that contradicted Album Minus Band in so many ways in that it was focused, hi-fi and decisively conventional. Bomb the Music Industry! thus ended in a full circle which only enhanced the majesty of their career. And with that, they fulfilled something beautiful in death, leaving behind a legacy of music, personality, and an ethos unrivalled.
The final minute of “whoah oh whoah oh” that closes out the album [Vacation] proper is at once brilliant and impacting, and shows just how different, yet still very much ideologically the same, a band that once ended an album with the line “And if I had a big emo band or dropped out of college I would have never met you, man” can be when they’re finally all growed up.