For this weeks First Impressions I was given a band I’d heard a lot about, but never had the time to actually listen to; Andrew Jackson Jihad. The band first surfaced on my radar when they were touring with Frank Turner, who has a history of taking his favorite bands on tour with him. Since I usually end up liking those bands, I made a note of the bands name with the intention of looking them up at a later date. When Vas suggested the band for this weeks First Impressions column I was thrilled to finally get an excuse to sit down and listen to them. Andrew Jackson Jihad are often described as a “folk-punk” band from Arizona, and I have to admit that I have never before come across that particular genre of music. So all in all I was excited to dive into the three songs I was given.
The first song that I was given to listen to was “People” off of their 2007 album, People Who Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World, and as soon as it started playing I had to wonder if I was given it because of the banjo. The song has a very DIY sound to it; it’s not bad quality but it sounds like it has been recorded in one take and not brushed up or polished in any way. And that’s a sound I quite like overall because to me its more honest. The singer reminded me of John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats a little, based on his delivery and his overall sound. The lyrics made me laugh a little because there’s an obvious dichotomy in what they say. On the one hand people are great and fantastic, but on the other they are horrible and hateful. As someone who works with the general public on a daily basis that love/hate relationship towards my fellow man is something I can relate to wholeheartedly. But overall I loved the message of the song and think that everyone can relate to the lyrics. “I have faith in my fellow man / and I only hope that he has faith in me” the song concludes.
The second song, “Hate, Rain on Me” is off their album Knife Man, and it shows a clear progression in sound from the previous song. This song has a full band, whereas the other was more acoustic. It still has a rough around the edges feel to it, but that only adds a sense of character to their sound. If it was too polished it wouldn’t be folk-punk. Again, I loved the lyrics of this song. The lyrics might not be poetic or even particularly deep, but they strike a chord with me because they are so honest and introspective. There’s no glossing over of faults, no sense of “she’s wrong for leaving me or not loving me.” Instead the lyrics reveal the truth, even when it’s less than flattering. “I’ve gotta get out of my skin but I don’t know where I begin / and right now I feel worthless and I feel lazy” they bluntly state. Not everyone has their life completely together and sometimes that process is harder than we imagine but its nice to see a band that doesn’t try to act like they aren’t human and struggling with things just like everyone else. Not all of life problems are about “getting the girl/boy”. Sometimes its as simple as admitting “I want to give a shit again.”
Out of the three songs I was given, the only one I wasn’t instantly won over by was the third, “Linda Ronstadt” off of the band’s upcoming album, Christmas Island. After looking up the name I realized that Linda Ronstadt is, apparently, an 11 time Grammy winner who was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame this month. I’d never heard of her before now, but clearly she was a very influential woman. Musically the song is different from the first two, though it has more in common with the second song in that it’s slightly rough around the edges. Lyrically its much the same as the previous two. “I almost made it through a year of choking down my fears,” the song proclaims before going on to add “but they’re gone for now / all thanks to Linda Rondstadt.” The song is about how seeing a piece of modern art affected the lyricist, and I think that that, at its core, is really the point of art after all. Art is, in many ways a reflection of ourselves, and seeing art that is created by someone other than ourselves but still being able to have an emotional connection to it is a beautiful thing. That’s part of the reason why I love music so much. Music expresses the thoughts and feelings I have every waking moment of every day, though I didn’t write the lyrics and songs myself. To quote the great Frank Turner himself: “I still believe that everyone can find a song for every time they’ve lost and every time they’ve won.”
Overall I really enjoyed the songs that I heard. I think I’ll definitely keep listening to the band; they have a decent size back catalog that I look forward to exploring, and their fanbase seems really passionate. I was won over by the bands honest lyrics and folk-punk sense of enthusiasm.