Review Summary: A masterful and ultimately irresistible exercise in catharsis at its most acute, unpolished, and...hopeful.
Everyone has those sides of themselves they’re not particularly fond of. The socially awkward guy, who responds “not much” to “how are you?”, or wishes the same to a waiter who tells him to enjoy his food, the guy who’s constantly making mountains out of molehills and then feels terrible about it later, or the guy who’s surrounded by people he considers to be better than him, the guy who feels like he’s just not enough.
All of these people live inside every single one of us. But with their newest brilliant slab of folk-punk catharsis, Knife Man,
Andrew Jackson Jihad has let us all know that these people are there for a reason, and that when we let them out, they don’t necessarily have to be our downfall.
isn’t a concept album in the traditional sense, but all of its songs do have a common theme: dealing and reconciling with all the feelings and situations and people that make us feel like shit.
How consistent the album is with this theme and the way it does so is probably the most remarkable thing about the album; every single idea, in every single song, is completely…well, complete. By the end of each song’s duration, no idea that had started to be sang about will be left hanging. If a certain problem in dealing with other people or dealing with yourself is the subject of the song, the end of the song will tell you a way to solve the problem. Nothing is vague, and everything makes sense. Sure, metaphors and ingenious comparisons abound, but nothing is really left open to interpretation, and not a single end is left untied. Probably the most brilliant example of this on the album is in “People II 2: Still Peoplin.’” The song talks about how much worse we feel about our problems when they’re compared to bigger problems in the world. But the song completely clears all our guilt with this simple stanza:
You don’t have it any better.
You don’t have it any worse.
You’re an irreplaceable human soul
With your own understanding of what it means to suffer.
Not only is it simply and elegantly stated, but when you think about it, it’s also completely true. And this is among many other examples on the album (like I said earlier, pretty much every song), like in “Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad,” which ends an exploration of the theory that we should help homeless people become self-sufficient, rather than just constantly give them all the things they need, with “I wish to God I had some spare change every time a perfect stranger asked me for some spare change, but there’s not enough spare change in the world to make such an empty gesture count.”
Throughout the album’s entire duration, not a single thought is left unfinished, and the listener is always fulfilled.
Each song’s separate subject matter and words are very cathartic, as in they artfully and extremely entertainingly express negative emotions. That bleak, empty hole in our stomach left when someone betrays us, that depressed longing that rots our insides when a loved one leaves for an extended amount of time, and that draining progression from apathy to frustration with your apathy are all predicaments pondered upon in Knife Man,
and they’re all pondered upon wonderfully. The lyrics are always in your face, acting as sort of a bitch slap of truth, and are always laughably true. “I wish I had a bullet big enough to fucking kill the Sun. I’m sick of songs about the summer, and I hate everyone.”
Yes, in the way that verse is sung, that particular progression of thoughts seems ridiculous (and for that reason, is pretty damn funny), but is that not a thought progression we’ve all followed before, when we were having just one of those days?
But what makes the lyrics even better is that they know
how ridiculous they sound sometimes. When the lyrics are very revealing, and as a result sound unnecessarily brazen, they do it with style and a hilarious self-awareness. A perfect example of this is found in “Distance:”
And I hate whiny fucking songs like this,
But I can’t afford a therapist
Sorry, guys…here’s a solo!
After this stanza, a solo is proceeded to be played, resulting in one of the most hysterical but simultaneously self-examining moments I’ve ever heard in music, although it’s hard to decide if it’s funnier than the objectively bad pun at the end of “No One:”
And it takes no one…to no one.
This is the last line of the song, but the song officially ends with the dissonant chord that promptly follows it. The dissonance perfectly complements the obvious stupidity, and hilarity, of the joke. And throughout every song, the album never loses this sight of itself.
Out of Knife Man’s
16 tracks, not a single one isn’t worth noting. Every single song has its own unique, brilliant lyrics and melodies, and every song is essentially perfect in the way they’re built and executed. The album is also perfectly paced; a slower, more meandering tune always comes at the right time, and so does a faster, more punk-y one. The most obvious example of this on the album is the progression from “People II 2: Still Peoplin’” to “Sorry Bro.” “People II 2” is a softer, acoustic number for all but the very last line, which leads seamlessly into the abrasive, electric chords of “Sorry Bro.” This perfect pacing is also shown in “Back Pack,” a wandering, almost eerie
song’s following of the much more upbeat “American Tune.” The listener is never bored or overwhelmed, they’re always given a reason to listen.
That idea actually sums up Knife Man
pretty well as an album. Andrew Jackson Jihad never gives us a reason to want to stop listening. We keep wanting our questions answered, our tensions eased, and our fears washed away by the lyrics’ ingenious organization and simple, but brilliant observations. “If You Have Love In Your Heart” fits perfectly as the half-way point of the album because it contradicts the attacks on our fellow man the first seven songs consist of, providing a perfect balance; “If you have love in your heart, who am I to judge you?”
And I think this album has honestly taught me some valuable life lessons with lines like “If you have no one, you are no one,”
and “It’s not your job to make everybody happy. You don’t have to answer to anyone or anybody. Just stick, stick, stick to your guns, and don’t quit until you feel like changing them.”
And how could I forget about the album’s soaring, emotionally grueling closer, “Big Bird,” ending with one of the very, very
few vague and open-to-interpretation lines on the album, but still summing up the album and providing a yet impenetrable sense of closure: “But the big red bird that lives under the city doesn’t give a damn about me, and it dies every night. So I bought a knife. I am a knife.”
So the next time you feel “worthless and crazy,” or if you ever “feel your insides rotting when the world could be bowing at your feet,” or if you simply feel like the world is out to get you, let Andrew Jackson Jihad and Knife Man
do you a service and make sense of this fucked up world you live in.
There is no one to blame.
People are just fucking mean!