Review Summary: Auxiliary Jackson Jihad
It is pretty impressive what Andrew Jackson Jihad has been able to do with their small folk-punk band over the years of its existence. Over 9 years and 4 LPs, the outfit has grown and changed with each new iteration, using folk-punk (emphasis on the punk) as a medium to spring-board Sean Bonnette's abstract ramblings into a coherent musical package. Other bands in a similar position might fall into formulaic songwriting after the success of an album like "People Who Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World". Not Andrew Jackson Jihad, though. Instead, they have grown and honed their skills, and "Rompilation" is here to provide a looking glass into Andrew Jackson Jihad's multi-faceted past, and it does a great job of doing just that, even if the songs on here shine a little less than a standard AJJ album.
The first three songs feel like walking back in time as the listener is shown the many eras of AJJ. The opening tune 'Hate Song for Brains' is easily the most complete song on the album, it has elements of post-production and actually sounds like it was recorded in a professional studio, it would fit right in next to a song like 'Backpack' on "Knife Man". Song two, 'If Jeff Swiney had a Hammer,' reminisces on "Can't Maintain" days of loud fuzzy guitars and Sean Bonnette yelling unapologetically and drunkenly. The third song, 'Dipping Things in Stuff' sounds like it was written in the age of "People Who Can Eat People…", and sees the band back in its roots of a guitar, a bass and a guy singing bizarre things that make you smile, and think at the same time. Any fan of Andrew Jackson Jihad will certainly appreciate this sampler that shows the many faces of the band.
The album takes an odd turn after the nice intro of the first 4 songs and makes a 1-2 punch of several consecutive songs that focus on political statements. Andrew Jackson Jihad has never been a super politically charged band, usually singing more about the human condition than the government. "Rompilation" thinks otherwise, however. The songs range from abstract political qualms to specific name-calling. On 'This is Not a War' the band makes vague calls to action like:
"This is not a protest, this is a body’s immune system reacting to a disease / It’s been trying to cure cancer with echinacea, vitamin C, and lots of sleep."
And then the next song blatantly calls out a congressman by name on 'Joe Arpaio is a Punk.' These political statements have never been especially prevalent on the main releases, and with good reason; while the songs are catchy and carry a good message, they lack the poignancy of Bonnette’s thought-provoking lyrics, and the subject matter is just so stereotypical folk-punk, which is a term not often used in an Andrew Jackson Jihad review.
"Rompilation" has 22 songs and a 47 minute run-time. The album becomes a bit of a chore to listen to in its entirety because of the frequent changes of songs that all try to make some sort of thought or statement in its 1-2 minute length. Sean Bonnette has established himself as quite a lyrical genius, but on AJJ's LPs the messages are fully realized and developed as opposed to these lyrical samplings on "Rompilation" that ultimately leave the listener confused.
For a group that thrives on undeveloped song ideas and simplistic song structure, a compilation album seems like it would be just another day on the job for AJJ. But the songs here feel like they are trying to recreate the simple songs of the past, but are a little too plain, it tries to emulate the punk songs of the main releases but don’t have quite enough intensity, they try to provoke thoughts and emotions, but the lyrics aren't quite up to par with what is now expected from Bonnette’s pen. And it turns out that makes all the difference. This album is not a starting point for people looking to get into Andrew Jackson Jihad, but it is a great auxiliary album for the fan who has every album and can’t wait for the next one.
Hate Song For Brains
This Is Not A War