Serotonin is an asshole. Or maybe it's my brain, and its inability to correctly distribute the serotonin, that's the asshole. Either way, if I don't take a small pink pill every morning, I—like more than 10 percent of the American population—can be quickly swallowed up by a thick, heavy fog of depression. And that fucking sucks.
Depression has affected my schoolwork, my job, and my relationships—and even when I'm feeling good, I know it's in there somewhere. There's always an elephant in my brain, a sad devil on my shoulder; I rarely feel 100 percent free of its grasp, and just one bad day can make me start to worry that it's coming back again.
Jeff Rosenstock, singer with the (for now) defunct band Bomb the Music Industry!, seems to know how this feels—he's addressed depression over and over again in both BtMI! and his solo songs. And while I don't personally know him (save for a couple interviews we've had over the years), his music and lyrics have done me more good than just about every therapist I've ever spent awkward, tear-filled hours with.
A lot of songwriters are inspired by sadness and depression, and there are a lot of amazing sad and/or depressing songs in the world, but there's something about Rosenstock's ability to address the familiar misery without wallowing in it, through high-energy (and sometimes bittersweet) punk rock songs, that brings me more comfort than most.
In the jittery "Felt Just Like Vacation" track on Bomb the Music Industry!'s last album, Vacation, Rosenstock rattles off exactly what happens to me every winter here in the Pacific Northwest: "In truth, December destroyed me/January crushed me/By February I was not myself/March rolled in like beatings and rolled out like a bear hug/In April I stared out the window for a fucking month/I don't want October/I don't want November/I don't want to feel those crippling blows/That I can't explain to myself, my friends, or you."
In the aptly titled "Depression Is No Fun," a playful pop song with ska leanings, Rosenstock sings, "Even when locations change, the imbalance stays the same/And you just run out of cities, states, and countries you can blame/So you just keep running away/Running away."
I think my absolute favorite, right now anyway, is the song "Everybody That Loves You," which reminds us that everyone is vulnerable, and that doesn't make us weak or bad: "Even nerves of steel deserve a breather/Weight wears down the infrastructure/And hearts of gold can still feel lonely/If they don't know they're not the only ones."
I've found comfort in many more—"Saddr Weirdr," "Struggler," and one of his new solo tracks, "Go On, Get!," with its chorus that tempts us with living out the absolute fantasy of dramatically blowing everything off: "You're expendable/So be expendable/Burn the building down and/Quit your job and go outside/Quit your job and get outside!"
There have been literally hundreds of times in my life when it felt like the only escape was to burn everything down and start over again (figuratively, of course—thankfully, my low spirits aren't paired with pyromania).
Outside the context of his prolific song catalog, it may sound like Rosenstock is a weepy, whiny pessimist, but that's hardly the case—next to all the songs that hit my depression nail on its depression head, Rosenstock has, in both Bomb the Music Industry! and his solo material, made fun of bro metal, laughed at way-too-serious vegan straight-edge kids, and mocked trust-fund babies who stand in line for hours to snort coke in the bathroom. I make fun of those people, too!
He—like me, like anyone who lives with depression—has good days, full of a sense of humor, fun, and optimism, and sometimes that's the hardest thing to remember when darkness has ripped a hole in my head.
All this LiveJournal-like gushing is to say that this Sunday, Rosenstock will perform a solo show at Porchlight Coffee & Records with Seattle's own Sean Nelson, who just released a lyrically impressive solo album of his own on Rosenstock's record label, Really Records. It's going to be great.
This article has been updated since its original publication.