What Writer’s Block?
At its first listen, Andrew Jackson Jihad’s latest album simply does not feel like the product of a breakdown of creative drought that robbed fans of their usual rapid-fire releases. AJJ frontman Sean Bonnette performed solo for the entirety of this past year, and the year before that, the band toured extensively. In the live sense, they never really went away. Recorded silence is still silence, however, ultimately revealing a writer’s block that Bonnette just couldn’t quit. Opener “Temple Grandin” really gives no fucks to warm you up nor prepare you for the sardonic witticisms ahead. “Open up your murder eyes and see the ugly world that spat you out,” Bonnette and co. chant at you.
By the time “Temple Grandin Too” rolls around, signaling the near end of the album, you’re chanting with them. AJJ has the capacity to enrage you as much as disarm you with humor. “Getting Naked, Playing With Guns” is a prime example, recalling the banalities of suburban living with an almost Locke-like slant while shouting out materialist themes with a simple “we’ll set it off like Microsoft in ’94.” The fact that the best description of Christmas Island lies squarely within its lyrics points to a poetic victory for the band, lest we forget their signature instrumentals.
Ben Gallaty’s bass work feels as if he’s melded to the instrument, whether he’s hugging the root of the chord, almost caressing his instrument with a bow, or breaking through the guitar fuzz of “Kokopelli Face Tattoo” as smooth as ever. Gallaty balances the sharper (and now fewer than ever) unrefined edges. It’s a partnership that only deviates insomuch as the band continue to lock in tighter and sound just all the more effortless. For a band that stayed the course of touring rather than forcing their energies upon a studio, that subconscious wrangling has more than paid off. Christmas Island is what you’ve been waiting for and a rallying cry of success.