Andrew Jackon Jihad's 'Christmas Island' shows change and growth in their new sound

BY: AMBER REITER

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Usually a duo, Phoenix punks Andrew Jackson Jihad come together as a five piece for new record Christmas Island. Andrew Jackson Jihad, also known as AJJ, are known for their views on politics, social anxiety, the human condition, and equality. The opening song to the album, “Temple Grandin” stays true to their political roots. Not only because of song’s namesake (Temple Grandin was an autistic autism and animal rights activist) but also because of lyrics such as, “write a nice pop song about it” and “Helen Keller to the bullshit” which is comparable to the sarcastic, yet serious political undertones in the songs “American Tune” and “People II 2: People still Peoplin’” off of Knife Man.

Though there are similar themes in both albums, Christmas Island is by no means the same record as Knife Man. Christmas Island is completely different than anything the group has done before, and front man Sean Bonnette explains why.

“After making Knife Man, I went through a bout of writer’s block that was fueled by the fear that the next record wouldn't be as good,” says Bonnette, “The cure for that was to say goodbye to the idea of making another Knife Man and start from scratch. It would be impossible to outdo that record by simply trying to copy it. We have said goodbye to all of our records in this fashion. It's much more liberating for me to approach music this way instead of constantly trying to do what we did on the last album, only better. Also writing wise, I think I'd be doing myself and the listeners a great disservice if I worried about whether or not they would like the song I'm writing.”

Death and blood seem to be a reoccurring theme in the album. In the catchy instrument heavy “Children of God” Bonnette belts, “And the blood collector collected blood / and the cannibals all sang / tra-la-la-la-la away.” In the more delicate and acoustic, “Coffin Dance” Bonnette sings, “Shoot him again / because I can see his soul dancing.”

The song, “Deathlessness” sounds like a song straight out of a spaghetti western. With cowboy style vocals, guitar, and a bass line that makes you feel like you’re in a saloon. It’s a song that’s unlike anything AJJ have done before.

AJJ are known to most as being folk-punk, but this album in a sense redefines them. Where there are still a few folk-punk-esque tracks, almost half of Christmas Island is composed of soft punk rock-like ballads. AJJ have always had acoustic songs, however their acoustic tracks usually still have a hard punk influence and are highly energetic. On Christmas Island the acoustic tracks are more soft and dreamlike.

However, like any change it could polarize the band’s fan base.

“It absolutely could polarize our listeners,” Bonnette agrees, “and in a sense I hope it does. I hope it does for every album we put out. This isn't because I want to bum anyone out, especially not a fan of our band, but because I think it's important for our band to keep changing, and polarization is a sign of that change.”

Bonnette continues, “For AJJ, change is vital. It's what keeps the band interesting for us. It's fun to go outside the comfort zone, to make something no one (ourselves included) would expect us to make. There is a true joy in bringing something new to the table.”

The band will be hitting venues in Los Angeles and San Diego on their tour this July. Christmas Island is available on iTunes, Spotify, bandcamp, and the band’s website.