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AJJ Reaches Out Past Folk-Punk’s Expectations

A Review of AJJ’s Latest Album, “Good Luck, Everybody”

Good Luck, Everybody is, put simply, Folk-Punk band AJJ’s response to the political climate in 2019 going into 2020. Sean Bonnette, the frontman of the band, described it as “… pessimistic and sad, with small pockets of love and grace. It’s bitter. And funny. And scary, like a scroll through your endless feed.” Before this review proceeds, something needs to be noted. One, I was very kindly gifted both a digital and physical copy of the album early by AJJ’s press and radio agents Jaime Colletta and Dawood Nadurath.

AJJ Mega Guillotine 2020

AJJ is a Folk-Punk band based out of Phoenix, Arizona and was founded circa 2004 under the name Andrew Jackson Jihad. They found widespread success in the greater punk community with their 2007 album People Who Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World and have been mainstays of the Folk-Punk genre. AJJ has had a rotating cast of members ever since their inception, but lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Sean Bonnette and bassist Ben Gallaty have appeared on every album so far.

Bonnette and Gallaty pull out all the stops on this album, transitioning easily from The Blues, Lo-Fi folk, Pop, and Psychedelic Electro-Folk. Its an absurdist piece of music, and it’s perfectly AJJ.

“A Poem”

Sean Bonnette described this song in a bio provided by the band by saying “Poetry owes nothing to the poet, music nothing to the musician.” This is the first song on the album and the first single they released, and while it is maybe not the best of the singles and not the best song on the album, it’s a wonderful start to the album. It’s a song by artists to artists.

“Normalization Blues”

This song is very 2019-20. It’s tired, it’s breathless, and it’s wonderful. This was released as the third single on the album, and it is by far my favorite of the three. Bonnette spoke on this song saying “The ball of shit is rolling down the hill, bigger and faster. I don’t like society post-2016. We’re all acting like dicks.” AJJ  perfectly channels Woody Guthrie in this song, and it feels almost in line with Guthrie’s “Dust Bowl Blues”.

“Body Terror Song”

This song feels like a Lo-fi song about body dysphoria, and while it doesn’t seem like the band was planning on creating a bit of a trans anthem, it works wonderfully. Bonnette described the song more in relation to “the human body breaking down over time, without even thinking about all the other things that accelerate it.”

“Feedbag”

This song would fit perfectly on Bright Eyes’ album Digital Ash In A Digital Urn. It’s exactly that brand psychedelic electro-folk. It’s strange, and most of the lyrics don’t make sense out of context (“I will fill my feed bag full of food today, Hungry Boy” anybody?). It’s anxious and leaves the listener on edge. “I realized it was a prayer to return to the feeling of connection I used to have with people.” Says Bonnette.

“No Justice, No Peace, No Hope”

From anxiety-filled psychedelic electro-folk to a piano power ballad. This song is one of my favorites. It’s powerful in a way I wasn’t sure AJJ could pull off, but they execute it perfectly. The transition from social anxiety to a song so full of hopelessness is beautiful. In the bio provided by Bonnette, he apologizes for the song saying “I’m truly sorry for how bereft of optimism this song is. I can’t control the way I feel and I can’t lie to my piano.” It’s brutally honest, and it works wonderfully.

“Mega Guillotine 2020”

How do you talk about “Mega Guillotine 2020”? It’s a pop song with maybe six lines. By all means, it should be annoying and be a weird split in the album. But it’s not. It’s hilarious and catchy, and it gets stuck in your head like the best earworm possible. The music video, which features the severed heads of America’s leaders singing along to the song, is kitschy and absolutely delightful. When describing the songwriting process Bonnette said “I saw the patent for a guillotine that can cut off the heads of fifteen congressmen at the same time. Pure inspiration.” The mix of radical politics and cheery pop music is off-putting in all the best ways.

“Loudmouth”

This song is painfully aware of the story it’s telling. It’s a classic punk story and Bonnette knows he’s telling a story anyone who’s been to a show in someone’s basement has lived through. “Have you ever played a show with a band and loved their politics but were so mortified by the way they treated their fans that you just wanted to crawl into a ball and disappear?” Says Bonnette. Even if you’ve never been seen this specific situation, we’ve all been there. We’ve all seen someone we thought was cool be an absolute asshole, and it won’t ever not be a wakeup call.

“Maggie”

“My dog is my master.” Bonnette’s description wraps up this song perfectly. It’s an adorable song about trust and absolutely strikes true for any pet owner. The verses “I let you put me in the box because I know that you know what I need more than me and I know that you need me more than that.” hit especially close to home.

“Psychic Warfare”

This song is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s Folk-Punk, who needs subtlety. On the other hand, the song borders on “Orange Man Bad” territory. It’s critical, but borders on the depth of a twitter rant, the line “this picture that I painted of you is you burning in hell. Hell yeah, and then I set it all on fire, this is psychic warfare.” It feels like something you would see in Trump’s mentions and less like an actual effort to make a change. Bonnette describes the song as “A magic spell for the downfall of idiot president.” It’s a hard line to walk, which the band pulls of perfectly in songs such as “Mega Guillotine 2020”, “No Justice, No Peace, No Hope” and “Normalization Blues” and maybe not so well in this song.

“Your Voice, as I Remember It”

According to Bonnette, this is “A song for our recent dead.” and it strikes that note perfectly. 2019 was a rough year for most of us, and nearly everyone close to me lost someone. AJJ does a wonderful job of capturing the despair of realizing this person you loved can only live on in your memory.

“A Big Day for Grimley”

AJJ closes out the album with a coming home song. It’s bittersweet and has something for everyone. “I missed it here in the desert so much, and I mourn how seven years in the midwest has transformed me, made me stoic, closed off, cold. Thankfully I am now melting.”

The first single released from Good Luck, Everybody was “A Poem”, which was released on October 29th, 2019. Since then 2 other singles have been released, “Mega Guillotine 2020” and “Normalization Blues”. The full album was released on all streaming services on January 17, 2020, and the band will begin touring the record on January 25th. The first tour date is in Tuscon, Arizona and from there they will tour all across the country. A full list of their tour dates can be found on their website.

AJJ Mega Guillotine 2020


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JJ Mazzucotelli

Written by JJ Mazzucotelli

JJ uses He/They pronouns and is pursuing a Bachelors in journalism and history at The University of Nevada, Reno. They are a freelance photojournalist and frequently works with various antifascist causes along the West Coast. JJ is heavily involved with their local Queer Student Union and Food Not Bombs.

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