All Things Considered, Rock Music Was A Mistake finds J Blissette at home on the internet, translating his influences into eclectic pop music turned upside down.
J Blissette‘s departure from the poppy garage rock jams of his debut, Until I Go Blind, makes for a good transition into the new world of isolated internet music. On a recent episode of DOMINIONATED’s 20 or 20 podcast, he defines his new record as an “internet release.” “I’m in Calgary right now, but I’m on the internet,” he declares, given how COVID is eliminating our sense of inhabiting a space in a world where all we can do is work and stay home. Rock music can only go so far now that bands have to resort to Zoom calls to collaborate. Even before the pandemic, the internet maintained a quarantine-core/post-genre phase where more musicians recorded in the solace of their homes. At least, Blissette’s way of keeping up with the times produced something fresh and befitting of his sonic talents. On All Things Considered, Rock Music Was A Mistake, J Blissette feels at home on the internet, translating his influences into a Fender telecaster, a drum machine, a laptop, and his wacky neuroticism — eclectic pop music turned upside down.
Upon listening to the record, you wouldn’t think that his love for guitar-based rock music has withered at all. He shreds through heavy solos and crunching riffs as if holding on to guitar-based music for dear life, as on “(Respect) The Process.” Meanwhile, intro “Pet Dog”’ uses a distorted bassline with Blissette assuming the form of Scott Pilgrim preparing for a battle of the bands fight sequence. As he does throughout the record, he raps/sings, trying to outpace his paranoia and drum machine. Though his jittery bars sound high-strung, he masks it with apathy. “Nothing at all, it ain’t shit,” he claims, as if everything is fine despite having “keyed [his] own car to prove a point” or having “four pounds of weed / no thought at all.”
Blissette describes On All Things… as a “Venn diagram of pop-punk and modern pop music, with detours into jungle, noise rock, and anime themes,” which sounds about right. On “Bad At This,” the Blink 182 influence is apparent. After taking a breath to spit all his words in rapid succession (a la Blink’s “The Party Song”), he answers himself in a call-and-response phrase in that stretched-out emo inflection: “Take the car in / Self-improving like the next dumb.” It’s as if he’s his own Mark and Tom on the same track. Though, instead of the crude jokes and young adult heartbreak, Blisette’s projection of his cynicism on a tardy friend uncovers the millennial ennui found in modern times (“I’m not perfect you’re not perfect / we’re in this room / it ain’t worth it”). Laying the track down with a snappy jungle break feels proper as Blissette noodles through cleaner guitar pop riffs and feel-good breezy autotune, another prominent yet fitting modern feature of the record.
90’s kids might remember Metro Station, 3OH!3, and Cobra Starship — pop-punk staples that made melodic pop and dance music for the masses. After their peak, older fans might cringe at the thought of listening to them now or even think of them as guilty pleasures (pun intended) as an adult. I’d like to believe that they were instrumental to some of pop music’s sounds today, as Blissette agrees on his 20 or 20 interview. On “You Do You,” he channels those bands using an ominous disco synth line. The track leads to a rewarding wave of pleasurable, guilt-free autotune harmonies: “Live better / Get Better / Be Better / Get over how much all of that shit’ll hurt.“
In another description on his Bandcamp page, Blissette portrays the album as “intended to communicate the post-apocalyptic vibes of living in the modern-day with mental illness.” Aside from the cacophony that permeates the record, Blisette provides some respite in two. The sterile yet cleansing take of the Postal Service’s electronic pop manifests on “Cowgrrl” and “Smoke in Peace.” On the former, his cynicism gives way to introspection. “I’m not a good man,” he sings — an admission we all must acknowledge to ourselves before moving on to restoring our mental energies. It’s a righteous first step to take, so we can take the next: “I’m aware that I’m left behind / I’m taking a breather,” he concedes. On the latter, he recognizes that he’s not alone in his struggles: “This ain’t easy, it ain’t better / We’re not lesser for the record / Potted plants and happy people all alone we’ve got no heat no.” I envision the track appearing on the next season of The Midnight Gospel, an animated series that muses on existential dread but also comforts the soul with glowing synth tracks and reassuring conversations with bizarre but sage-like characters.
In his 20 or 20 interview, Blissette questions his rock standom’s timing and how the genre’s decline over the past decade has made him hesitant to call it his own. “You should’ve learned to rap, you should’ve learned to make a beat,” he says, on the precarity of modern rock musicianship’s economic and social standing. Alas, the #MeToo Movement’s effect on Burger Records eventually solidified his case for rock’s downfall. The internet might have been the cause of rock’s collapse, but it’s yielded potential for making innovative music in boundless spaces. J Blissette’s adoption of the internet as his place of residence proves that rock can progress despite its failures, assuring rock fans like myself that we don’t need a drum kit to keep moshing.