Andrew Jackson Jihad
6 May 2014 (SideOneDummy Records)
By Joe DeBonis
Not giving a fuck is a powerful attitude to have when making music for the masses. Saying what ever you want, playing whatever music strikes your fancy and above all doing what you believe and nothing else are all formidable ways to live life and as a conglomerate Andrew Jackson Jihad embodies these sentiments perfectly. They sing sometimes disgustingly vulgar songs, they play a fast paced, in your face kind of music and they even get so cynical it becomes almost depressing with their view on politics, the world and all that falls in between. Above all though, they do what they want and never at the whim of some record company or fan base. And really, any time you can come across a band like that then that’s a band worth following throughout their career.
What always grabbed me with anything I heard by Andrew Jackson Jihad was the pure rawness of their songs. Almost every song they have ever written never sounds fully mastered, completely finished or even recorded on nice equipment. The vocals are harsh, the amped acoustic guitar sounds either too loud or too soft and the key board/ string combo also going on in the background seems to have just been thrown on top of the whole song, sometimes hogging up the entire track. Yet after all of that muck is sifted through, Andrew Jackson Jihad remains one of the most intriguing bands to put out music that even remotely falls under the category of “rock music.” Obviously their music really isn’t “rock” and it falls under “folk-punk” more than anything, but in general to have such a carefree attitude with the way their records sound is a rare thing in the musical world full of producing techniques too endless to count.
More than anything, the true talent of the band lies with the lyrics and not with the erratic musicality. Whatever you want to call their brand of music, it is undeniable that Sean Bonnette and his band make some of the most honest and thought provoking music out there and nothing has really changed in that sentiment on Christmas Island.
The best way to make candid music is usually through some sort of lyricism. Well, Andrew Jackson Jihad makes that kind of genuine music but does it all with a wit that has such a bite to it, sometimes their pessimistic humor can become almost grotesque. On their latest album on the song “Children of God,” probably the most memorable quote from the album appears: “eyes as red as a dogs asshole when you see it shitting.” If that doesn’t produce a vivid image in the mind and make you stop the track and start it over again, I really don’t know what will. These lyrics are not horrendous like OFWGKTA’s are nor are they particularly violent like any drill or narco- corrido music, but they are vibrant and gaudy with their out of place metaphors and uncouth sayings. Bonnette is so direct with his descriptions of things he rarely needs to repeat himself or clarify anything he says.
On the other hand he can be almost too direct with things he says, like on “Getting Naked and Playing With Guns” where he talks about how he is going to “blow the little dick head to smithereens.” That’s enough to garner at least a little giggle from the average person yet Bonnette says it all so seriously you have to give the threat at least a little weight.
This album is considerably a good deal slower than some of the band’s other work and the group seemed a tad bit more serious than before. “I was getting ready to accept the death of my grandfather. A lot of songs like ‘Coffin Dance’ and even ‘Linda Ronstadt’ I think have some of that, and [Christmas Island] tries to capture that feeling of catharsis and overwhelming emotion that you can’t really explain,” says Bonnette with an interview for A.V. Club. Clearly this is the deepest album the band has released and Bonnette almost starts to cry on “Coffin Dance.” “Everyone has a heart, everyone has a mind, everyone has a soul” is a powerful lyric as he takes a closer look at death than he really has ever before with the imminent death of his grandfather approaching.
A whole paragraph is also necessary to discuss how truly haunting Bonnette’s voice can be at times. It seems with age his voice has matured to develop a more heavy power while still holding onto his piercing, volatile voice. He penetrates the sometimes blaring music with a voice that never seems to get above a yell but carries a volume to it that is all up unstoppable. It comes from what he is saying mostly and the way he says it. On “Kokopelli Face Tattoo” he is discussing a common human emotion: hate. What he says though pokes fun at the situation somewhat cynically; “hating you won’t make you suck any less,” making light of a situation that otherwise would be a heavy topic. Bonnette is so good at singing with a monotone like voice that sometimes what he says gets missed along the way. He can sometimes lack emotion and the message in the song can hide a little without him changing in intonation. If you listen to what is actually being said though, most of the time, Bonnette has something wise to say, even if it comes in some round about way.
Christmas Island is a fun album, it’s a deep album and above all it’s an Andrew Jackson Jihad album. They really don’t sound too much like anyone else and they have stayed true to their brand of honest fucking folk punk. People look for growth and change in bands, and Andrew Jackson Jihad certainty have matured but what keeps them relevant and worth listening to is how truly unique they sound album after album.
Rating: Loved It