Andrew Jackson Jihad are back, now simply releasing music under the abbreviated name of AJJ. More recent releases have seen the band thrust themselves away from their earlier folk punk sound, adding new types of instrumentation and new approaches to their performance style. And so, here’s ‘The Bible 2’, a title that suggests either spirituality, anti-spirituality, or complete irony, or maybe even all of the above carelessly shoved into one singular package. Let’s take a look.
Well, it’s not just their name that’s changed, that’s for sure. If you haven’t listened to Andrew Jackson Jihad for over five years, you’ll be surprised when you put this album on and get to ‘American Garbage’, a synth-driven, new wave song with very head-scratching lyrics, you might even be mortified, that certainly differs from person to person. The album opens with ‘Cody’s Theme’, which is a bit like an ultra-melodic version of ‘Queen Bitch’ by David Bowie, and while the composition and performance are both fantastic, the scruffy recording style wouldn’t even sound good on a demo recording.
‘The Bible 2’ includes a fair amount of ballads, from the cute, story-driven ‘Junkie Church’, to the devastating-come-baroque ‘No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread’, and these slower songs seem to be the band’s speciality here. Sometimes, an incorporation of new styles and influences can show when a band is really out of their element, and the more up-tempo songs highlight that a tad more, so if you’re only going to listen to only a few tracks from the album, the ballads would be strong recommendations.
As far as branching out goes, it doesn’t make for too underwhelming an experience – if you were a fan of AJJ for their melodies, then you’re still in luck to a certain extent. Even some of the lesser tracks like ‘Goodbye, Oh Goodbye’ and ‘White Worms’ still pack in fairly memorable melodies.
Some of the later tracks present somewhat of a downward slope, if ‘My Brain Is a Human Body’ is memorable for anything, it’s the low-end mixing that makes it seem like John Congleton forgot that the letters ‘E’ and ‘Q’ exist. But just as ‘Terrifyer’ is finished screaming “filler”, ‘Small Red Boy’ reminds us that while Sean Bonnette and friends have arguably got carried away with pop exploration, the old Andrew Jackson Jihad is definitely still alive.
There’s a good album rustling around inside ‘The Bible 2’, but overall its less visceral, less raw than Andrew Jackson Jihad’s best work, but luckily the melodies on display make up for the mess it flirts with being.
‘The Bible 2’ is out now via SideOneDummy Records
This AJJ article was written by Bel Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo by Nancy Walters