Andrew Jackson Jihad, Knife Man

Andrew Jackson Jihad, Knife Man

Wow. The two guys who make up Andrew Jackson Jihad, Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty, are quite possibly the angriest, orneriest, bitterest guys I’ve ever heard; after listening to the duo rampage their way through most recent album Knife Man, at least, that’s sure what it seems like.

And what a spectacle it is to behold. Bonnette and Gallaty rant and blaze and stagger and stomp, all while singing smirking/terrifying songs about drinking, hating everything, fucking the Devil, homelessness, and depression, and they somehow make it work when it really, truly sounds like it shouldn’t. Imagine the jangle-punk of Against Me! with an extremely drunk John Darnielle singing/howling the lyrics, loads and loads of bitterness and sarcasm and sociopolitical consciousness all rolled up into a tightly-wound ball of fury. Despite the fact that, yeah, there are folky instruments randomly poking their heads out of the noise, and some of the songs move along like old-school, barroom-style country, it’s punk as fuck.

Take “Gift Of The Magi 2: Return Of The Magi,” for example; it’s an utterly raw, impassioned chunk of punk rock squall with jangly guitars and mandolins lurking in the background and snarled-out lines about how God doesn’t exist but he likes the jokes. Then there’s the unbridled misanthropy of “Hate, Rain on Me,” which comes off like an R.E.M. song as envisioned by Craig Finn after a fistful of bad pills, or the strange, Okkervil River-esque waltz/stomp of “No One,” or “Distance,” with its smirking, sarcastic, bile-filled blast of roots-punk that seemingly hates itself as much as it does everybody else.

As hinted at with the Against Me! comparison, by the way, Andrew Jackson Jihad definitely have a political bent, particularly on tracks like “American Tune,” where singer Bonnette (rightly, to my mind) declares, “I’m a straight white male in America / I’ve got all the luck I need,” pointing to the crazily-tilted playing field that favors folks like, well, him and me.

“No One,” as well, is nothing less than a meditation on how easy it is to become a nonperson in our vaunted modern society, and “Zombie By The Cranberries By Andrew Jackson Jihad” is deceptively sharp for its nimble acoustic instrumentation, skewering well-meaning people who make basically temporary, empty gestures towards helping the homeless. As political commentary goes, it’s bleak, bleak, bleak, as evidenced by the line in “People II 2: Still Peoplin’,” where Bonnette shrugs and says, “You can hope it gets better / You can follow your dreams / But hope is for Presidents / And dreams are for people who are sleeping.”

At the end of the day, Knife Man is the perfect music for our times, bitter and hopeless and disillusioned that it’ll ever change, that things will ever get better, with wounds ripped right open and displayed. It’s like the staggering, stumbling state of our country set to music, and that’s a freaking amazing thing.

[Andrew Jackson Jihad is playing 4/11/12 at Rudyard’s, along with Joyce Manor & Treasure Fleet.]
(Asian Man Records -- P.O. Box 35585, Monte Sereno, CA. 95030;; Andrew Jackson Jihad --; Andrew Jackson Jihad (Facebook) --; Andrew Jackson Jihad (Tumblr) --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Wednesday, April 11th, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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