Review Summary: Sloppy and sincere, this is one of the better rock records this year.
Just in case you hadn't looked at the tracklisting yet, the tenth song on this album is called "Love Will Fu
ck Us Apart".
There are two very distinct, very different mentalities that could lead somebody to write and record a song with that name. The first means that the song is parodic; that they've taken one of popular music's few remaining sacred cows and attacked it, making it profane. The second means that, for the writer, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" actually didn't go far enough - that the love and loss expressed in the song was too simple, too clean, and that it didn't reflect the realities of messy, violent passion.
Andrew Jackson Jihad's "Love Will Fu
ck Us Apart" is the latter, which might surprise you. It certainly surprised me, given that some of the other track titles include "We Didn't Come Here to Rock" and "Love in the Time of Human Papillomavirus". That's a sexually transmitted disease that often leads to cancer of the penis and/or anus, just in case you were wondering. You'd be forgiven for dismissing AJJ as a joke band off the back of that, but the reality is that they've got so much emotion coursing through their songs that they can barely contain it at times. Parallels could obviously be drawn with Cap'n Jazz - another band who were messy and scattershot, and happy to crack a joke, but were never anything less than completely sincere.
What Can't Maintain
sounds more like, though, is Frank Turner. Arguably it sounds more like Turner than Turner himself, actually - while they remain ultimately an anti-folk band, the more frantic pace and the punkier delivery (think Against Me!) would have made much more sense coming off the back of Million Dead than Sleep Is for the Week
did. No matter - what binds them is the plain, direct, honest expression they both employ. "We Didn't Come Here to Rock" is a perfect example, its critic-baiting topic matter completely tired but its delivery and execution completely perfect ('If that's what gets your dick hard/Telling people they're bad at making art'). The rest of the albums deal almost exclusively with love and loss, though - from 'you will cough up crows that peck my eyes/And I will do nothing but go blind', to 'I will always appreciate bad days like this/Because they grant me a point of reference in regards to my happiness'. It's on "Who Are You?", a song about an absent father, that the record reaches its emotional apex though:
Would I have done what you did?
Would I do what you have done?
I like to think I'm a bigger man than that
You had some problems with alcohol
You took 12 steps and you solved them all
It took 16 years for you to call
What gave you the braves to pick up at all?
With all that going on it's remarkable that the album's as listenable as it is. It's certainly much more melodic and accessible than much of the music you could compare it to; just one of the many reasons this is one of 2009's biggest treats.