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Professor Goldstein, a local pop-punkish band fronted by Aeryn Goldstein, sent their new EP, The Fork Universe of Funky Love, out into the world on July 29. The five-track record inspired by the micro-genre of “Weezer-core” is full of energetic angst and a goofy depression that’s more angry than melancholic. The record is a bright beacon of authentic light to anybody struggling with their identity, depression, or life’s curveballs. And Goldstein, a trans public school teacher in Bowie, expresses a mix of emotions through the punk-(or is it funk-?)inspired music, full of guitar riffs and horn sections.
She is also hilariously self-aware. In the EP’s press kit, Goldstein describes The Fork Universe of Funky Love as ranging from “a nasally, stream of consciousness screechfest [to] carefully crafted ballad[s] that subtly describe how dinosaur documentaries shape[d] my childhood.”
While the deeply personal songs might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they’re exciting. At first listen, you’re greeted by a cacophony of angry voices and moody instrumentals that will immediately make some listeners fall in love, though it may put others off. The music does grow on you—whether you want it to or not. Though the middle tracks feel a bit too convoluted and, at times, harsh, the EP is bracketed by two standout tracks that are wonderfully fun, full of lyrics laced with catchy, playful irony and pop-punk sensibility.
The first number, “Nine Month Tour,” and the last, “El Dorko,” both strike the right level of musical irony and whimsy. The second track, “Less Force, More Finesse” could be fine-tuned, while the horns in “The Ballad of Alfred Wegener” are fun and fresh. And Goldstein’s whimsical monologue that bleeds into a cry: “I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to” is perfectly relatable (who hasn’t felt that way recently?). A couple songs feel more like Broadway hits than rock singles. In totality, Funky Love is quirky, explosive, and unapologetically fun, though at times tries to do too much.
Goldstein describes the tracks as “depressing, but gets goofier.” The merging of these two conflicting ideas leads the EP to feel as if it’s doing so much that the music loses some of the realness Professor Goldstein has going for them. On a whole, the record feels a bit disjointed. If an LP is in the band’s future, focusing on the elements that tie the songs together, instead of throwing in new quirks that separate them, would help streamline their sound and make for easier listening—while still maintaining the EP’s punk grittiness.
Theatrics is what this group has going for them—especially because few bands are able to pull off Weezer’s flat-voiced ’90s apathy. Professor Goldstein’s talent for storytelling, combined with their flair for musical theatrics and an emotive edge that’s hard to find in recording artists, seems suited to developing a rock musical. Take the song “Sick in New York” for example: The chorus yelled by a plethora of voices is a rich ensemble, and the angst-ridden lead vocals with expressive lyrics backed by rock music screams something Moritz Stiefel might have belted out in Spring Awakening. Goldstein should consider sending a script to Arena Stage—the horns alone make their music perfectly adaptable to a full orchestra. It would be a lost opportunity if Goldstein doesn’t.
Whatever their future holds, I do expect to see Aeryn Goldstein in a Playbill sometime in the future—the next rock opera could be Professor Goldstein’s very own.