Review Summary: Electric guitars make for a controversial album... or just a good one?
Nothing, apparently, says DIY like an acoustic guitar. At least, in the case of folk punk. Ghost Mice protest like they’re tackling temptation - they only used an amp this one time
live, and that was it. Paul Baribeau smacks and thumps at the thing more than he plays it, but you can bet that his strings don’t go by amp either. And as for Andrew Jackson Jihad – the genre’s indie favourites – the first reaction I heard to them was along the lines of “I’d hate for them to use electric guitars”. Can’t Maintain
is Jihad’s second, maybe third (they aren’t counting) album, and you can just about guess how opener “Heatilation” goes.
This isn’t to say electric guitars were null and void from their music until now, but they certainly got tucked away behind their better and booming comfort-zone. Namely, one member taps all over a double bass while the other strums his heart and fingers red. The instruments on the whole were skin and bone, much in the vein of what came out of them with People That Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World
. On that album, the duo also had skin and bone opinions: God doesn’t exist, cocaine is the worst and smoking varies on a scale of evil to cool. The effect – a quick and bare blast of thinking and playing – was hugely successful.
“Heartilation” is no different from the band’s back catalogue – in terms if it being speedy, angry and all in all fun – aside from the fact that they rock out louder than ever thanks to a trusty amplifier or two. Ultimately though, you can tell it’s the very same band because “Self Esteem” follows the song with the very same hyperbolic and no electric guitar in sight. Both songs - insanely catchy and over in a grand two minutes – set the album’s pace at the highest bar possible, but it certainly returns. To any nostalgic fans, “Sense & Sensibility”, “Who Are You?” and “Truckers are the Blood” are the same universal people-songs the band can’t stop creating: more sing-alongs about the worst things they can think of.
actually injects another dimension into Andrew Jackson Jihad that moves away from the attitude of People
. Whereas the latter put a non-existent God in stitches with “Rejoice”, the band here seem in a new (but ever-simple) line of thought: “Don’t know if I believe in God but sometimes I pray”. Whether a newly gained perspective or just some sort of irony, this line of thought seems to reflect through the album as they battle with the familiar world of folk punk and any unfamiliar world possible; sometimes it works, with “Olde(y) Tyme(y)” being an aptly-titled one minute lapse into optimism. Equally, “Kazoo Sonata In C Major” is an aptly-titled, similarly optimistic joke gone horribly wrong.
Perhaps, however, the band’s brief triumph in anger-management is simply hatred building up steam: on Can’t Maintain
the duo might also be the most direct they’ve ever been, “We Didn’t Come Here To Rock” being the most defensive song to my mind since Say Anything’s “Admit It!!!” It’s crude (“If that’s what gets your dick hard/telling people that they’re bad at making art"), it’s true to its word (enjoy two minutes of ambience), and it probably hates this review.
While a stream of demos, splits and EPs have put Andrew Jackson Jihad on the map, Can’t Maintain
should define their sound for good.