New-age Punk in the time of Trump
In January, AJJ released their first independent album. Self produced and label-free, the album is an experimental mix of folk-punk and various modern inspirations. Lead singer Sean Bonnette describes the album as both their least punk record musically, and their most punk record lyrically. Their most recent album, Good Luck Everybody, is a thought-provoking look at an important election year.
Cynical and angry, the album condemns America’s current sociopolitical state, bashing Trump and his cronies, corporate rule and capitalist consumerism. Despite the overwhelmingly negative look at America’s seeming inability to escape its worst qualities, the project remains hopeful for a more positive and equitable future. Inescapably punk, the folk rock tunes pair with sharp and angsty lyrics. Regardless of the simplicity and neutrality of this album’s instrumentation, it remains lyrically pointed towards both anger and a glimmer of hope. This experimentation creates an interesting contrast for the listener, one that may be appealing to a multiplicity of listener preferences.
When it comes to social commentary, songs like, “No Justice, No Peace, No Hope,” and “Psychic Warfare” ring loud and clear. The former, a somber piano ballad, is elementary, but passionate and effective. The latter is an orchestral tune with a flurry of bass drum, synth and bell sounds that are just eerie enough to get across a transparent political message.
The album’s opener, “A Poem,” is immediately attractive. It’s the perfect mix of humor and morbidity to prepare the listener for a rollercoaster of an album, especially as the following song “Normalization Blues” picks up speed significantly with a rockabilly bluegrass intensity. “Body Terror Song” is another example of AJJ’s whimsical nature. With quick minor drops, and the combination of traditional acoustic guitar with modern vocal effects and synth additives, the album births a unique sound. One can hear the influences of ‘60s psychedelic rock; The Beatles-esque song “Maggie” and the indie synthpop-heavy “Mega Guillotine 2020” both incorporate these influences beautifully.
Over all, Good Luck Everybody is an alluring take on punk music. It will be interesting to see the continuation of lyrical punk in combination with such a wide variety of musical influences as performed by AJJ here. One wonders if this unique type of punk may become appealing to a wider audience, eventually drawing in and forming a new generation of punk listeners. People will have to just wait and see.