Review Summary: The Michael Jordan of drunk driving played his final game tonight...“I’m happy that you’re happier than me,”
clamors Sean Bonnette at the end of “Sad Songs (Intermission),” paralleling essentially everything that Andrew Jackson Jihad’s work has emphasized. It has been apparent throughout the band’s career that Bonnette and Ben Gallaty have no intention of living a conventional lifestyle; too rough around the edges for mainstream society and finding fault with the way world functions. Being content and customary is clearly something that Andrew Jackson Jihad doesn’t give a shi
t about, whether this is conveyed through their off-kilter vocals, hilariously over-the-top lyrics, or the sometimes ridiculous instrumentation. Fusing each of those materials into an Americana-tinged parody of the human experience, the Phoenix duo has solidified their place in the contemporary folk-punk scene, with no signs of slowing down.
In a sense, Knife Man
is a departure from the band’s established sound, transforming untamed acoustic numbers into a more amplified and full setting. Much of the record features the work of an entire band, as it brings about a more consistent usage of a rhythm section, electric guitars, and the occasional introduction of kazoos. The latter portion of the statement is revealed on the hilarious “Fucc the Devil,” which is just as bizarre instrumentally as it is lyrically. As ludicrous as tracks “Fucc the Devil” and “American Tune” are however, instances such as “Hate, Rain on Me” are rather brilliant musically. Riding a simple bassline and tasteful electric leads, “Hate, Rain on Me” constructs an exceptional melody for Bonnette’s vocals.
While the effort to create a wider range of instrumentation would lead many to believe that the release’s lyrics would suffer as a result, Bonnette and Gallaty are as clever and sharp as ever. The country-tinged “Sad Songs (Intermission)” attacks the ideal of writing a song for the purpose of writing a song, instead indicating that “So every now and then I’ll sing sad songs, cause it keeps my spirit light and my conscience clean. And if you don’t care to hear I don’t mind if you go out for some air.”
The other fifteen tracks seem to follow suit in unwavering fashion; each highlighting a particular struggle and complete with a comedic edge. With this in place however, it is easy for the listener to not take Andrew Jackson Jihad’s inspiration seriously. Despite the fact that the band is constantly flippant, there is something truly sincere in each of Knife Man
’s songs. As clever as Bonnette and Gallaty are writing songs about sex with the devil and successful drunk driving, a powerful message is demonstrated within “Zombie by the Cranberries.” Sympathetic to the tribulations of the homeless, “Zombie by the Cranberries” avoids the decision to aid the dispossessed with change, instead suggesting, “So how about a ride" I can drive you to the shelter. We can eat dinner at the Andre House and you can even take a shower, cause I think you deserve much more than a smoke and 50 cents.”
Although Knife Man
is an indication of a band that is beginning to depart from its stripped-down roots, it doesn’t sacrifice much of the distinction that Andrew Jackson Jihad has been so effective with in the past. Hilarious, potent, and undoubtedly extravagant, the Phoenix natives have mastered their folk-punk and Americana sound. Delivering line after cunning line, Andrew Jackson Jihad have crafted a gem in Knife Man
, one that will prove to be one of the outfits’ most significant efforts.