Review Summary: "Open up your murder eyes, and see the ugly world that spat you out."4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Just when I thought that Andrew Jackson Jihad couldn’t keep relaying critical and timeless messages while maintaining their offbeat and quirky personality, “Christmas Island” happened.
While “Knife Man” and “Can’t Maintain” featured a lot of electric guitar and upbeat punk influence, this album seems to stray away from this style in favor of a more expanded sound. Drums, acoustic guitar, keyboards, upright bass, and even some other string instruments are showcased on this album instead, leaving Christmas Island with a more unique sound that can’t be encompassed just by the term “folk-punk”. This isn’t to say that they’ve abandoned their old style. Tracks like “Temple Grandin” and “Kokopelli Face Tattoo” recall that style in a refreshing way. But it’s very apparent that AJJ has picked up a few members, just from the sound of this album.
Front-man Sean Bonnette sings in his usual style for most of the album; there are some really strange and entertaining vocal effects thrown on at points. However, in “Coffin Dance”, he sings a little differently. The vocals are especially unsettling and haunting in the line “he sleeps a couple hours in the morning, hates the morning when he wakes up, the coffin dancer dances like he wants to make a friend but he does not”. The wistful and creaky way that he sings this gives me chills every time I listen to it. It’s something that I never expected from them, and that makes it especially haunting for me, at least.
Some might say that this album is tame in comparison to “Knife Man” and “Can’t Maintain”, and obviously doesn’t compare to the band’s first album. However, I would urge listeners to erase their expectations that this is a punk album. I don’t think of it as a punk album (even though the opener, “Temple Grandin”, recalls the same folk-punk ethos that made them popular). Most of the other songs on Christmas Island are as perplexing as the album cover. The label of experimental, tongue-in-cheek indie comes to mind, but I would still discourage people from labeling this record.
Christmas Island has its shortcomings, but they ironically seem to play into why I like this album so much. The crude, over the top analogies in the lyrics can easily be a turn-off (“And out the corner of my eye, coming out from the teeth filled sky with eyes as red as a dog’s asshole when you see it ***ting”- Children of God), but that’s also part of their unique charm. The retro sounding keyboard is also overly cheesy and cliché, but it strangely works for them.
From the overly punchy drums in “Children of God”, the strings in “Do, Re, and Me” to the 80’s sounding keyboard parts littered throughout the album, Christmas Island serves to be one of the more interesting and entertaining listens I’ve experienced so far this year. They maintain a lot of their folk-punk energy and charm, while simultaneously expanding their sound to strange terrain that only they could pull off. With bizarre keyboards, vocal effects, and even stranger subject matter, Christmas Island is certainly not a step back for Andrew Jackson Jihad.
Favorite Tracks: “Do, Re, and Me”, “Coffin Dance”, “Linda Ronstadt”, “Angel of Death”
Least Favorite Tracks: “Getting Naked, Playing With Guns”