Review Summary: Andrew Jackson Jihad 2 II: The Jihading
As far as the “scene” goes, within the punk world Andrew Jackson Jihad are pretty much unassailable heroes of the disenfranchised and malcontent youth. Even people who don't *like* rarely go out of there way to vocalize it, because the band is so beloved and highly regarded that even mentions of them not being the 'Great Punx Hope' are met with scowls and “Come on, man's”. I have spent six years listening to these two guys (Sean and Ben, guitarist and bassist respectively) traipse their way through silly anti-folk songs surrounded by wannabe hippies and anarchists, and it is with a heavy heart that I say I finally 'got' People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People
. The thing is, even with my new found understanding of the album, I have to say it still really isn't anything special.
People often seem to think that honesty and self awareness can replace a lot of things in music. If there is one thing Sean instills into AJJ it's a heart on his sleeve writing mentality that really gives us a good, hard look into his views on the world. Here's the thing: according to everything I'm reading on this album, I can't really say that Sean is anything but a privileged white guy, mad at the fact that he is a privileged white guy. While later albums see him delve more deeply and thoroughly into that aspect, People Who Something About An Action Against Other People
really just see's him mired in the most laughable amounts of social commentary and self deprecation. “Brave as a Noun” see's him going off on a wild tangent about his own, apparently deep, levels of sucking as a person, but never really offers any insight into what it is this means, leaving the song a microcosm for the problems with his songwriting at this point. Whereas “People II: The Reckoning” offers up plenty of witty one liners about the state of the human soul, it devolves into a derivative mess that just ends up being a thinly veiled self loathing statement about the difficulty of being someone who has wealth and power but conversely has to deal with the apathy of the world. Seriously, AJJ, do you really think Mrs. Robinson gives a fu
ck that people might not want to see her stupid face? She could buy someone to tell her that if she wanted.
So, in so far as the lyrics are concerned, essentially what we have is vapid and obviously preachy bull*** extolling the values of a man who, I have to gather, had spent most of his life in a pretty good place. The highlights of the album are the bookends, in which Sean takes a step back and gets so plainly childlike with his lyrics that they transcend his inane introspective bull*** and simply tell you to get happy. When the 'highlight' of your songwriting is the fact that you are creatively telling people to enjoy your lives, you can take that one of two ways: either make a song so flagrantly silly and idealistic that it becomes and obtuse, almost Beatles like pop ditty (People), or go and make it ironic and litter it with dark allusions and hidden metaphors (Rejoice).
Musically, this is one of the simplest albums you could ever listen to. Most of it is done pleasantly and the experiments in sound are occasionally interesting (the beginning cacophony of vocal harmonies in “Bells and Whistles” does a really nice job at breaking up the middling pace of the record), they conversely also tend to get really annoying. The xylophone at the beginning of “A Song Dedicated to Stormy The Rabbit” is so incredibly grating that even the clever vocal melody that ebbs and flows to it get's tuned out as your brain tries not to implode in on itself. “Personal Space Invader” teases you into thinking it will be a lo-fi acoustic jam, but then of course adds some crazy space-time whistle to make sure that you won't enjoy the song as much as you should, because something something something something something.
All that said, People Who Eat People Are The Luckiest People: Still Luckiesting
is honestly a pretty decent record. While it's a surprisingly hollow album, it's easy to make some basic connections to the songs due to how simple and fun they can be, and the lyrics while not being anywhere near the mounds of hyperbolic praise they receive for being “insightful”, are still pretty funny and occasionally eye opening. It's what amounts to a really good jam session by a couple of guys who wanted to make a fun folk punk record, but couldn't foresee that the punk community would blow this up to levels of worship that would even make Neutral Milk Hotel fans go “Oh, well, that's
a bit excessive”. Is it their fault that it happened? No, but by God if I have to overhear one more smelly FEST-goer say “I'm only at the big venue for AJJ”, I might commit sudoku before the night is through.