Andrew Jackson Jihad Ė Canít Maintain
Record Label: Asian Man Records
Release Date: October 13th 2009
Iíll admit that folk-punk is a genre that Iím not terribly familiar with, but I saw a copy of 2009ís Canít Maintain by the folk-punk duo Andrew Jackson Jihad recently, and I decided to pick it up. Not only because it was on clearance, but because I saw a copy of another record of theirs (the name of which escapes me) at the same store a year prior. While it wasnt the record I originally saw, it would have to do. Nonetheless, I was very excited to listen to it, because it was something new for myself. As a reviewer, I always want to challenge myself, mainly by listening to something Iíve never listened to before, or never was interested in listening to. Folk-punk is not a genre that Iím familiar with, but that wonít stop me from reviewing this record. One of the first things that caught me off guard was the fact that it was only about 28 minutes long, especially because there are thirteen songs on the record. Thatís not a problem, by no means, but it did throw me off slightly. As for the accompanying music, I was very surprised by what I heard. I wouldnít say that I was completely blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised. The only band that even closely resembles AJJ that Iíve listened to would be Joyce Manor, who is on the same label as them, coincidentally. That band is rather minimal in terms of instrumentation as well, but nonetheless, itís a very interesting record. With that being said, however, letís do our best to maintain ourselves while listening to this record, shall we?
The record begins with ďHeartilation,Ē and one thing that I already noticed are the insanely long and/or nonsensical titles, but those donít really hinder anything from the music first. Right from the bat, vocalist/guitarist Sean Bonnette begins singing as a very energetic guitar riff comes through the speakers. This first track is only about two minutes, and it ultimately describes the whole record Ė a lot of really short, fast, and to the point songs. Bonetteís voice slightly bothers me, just because itís rather pitchy, but itís not awful, either way. For being in a folk-punk, his voice does fit nicely. I digress, however. Second and third tracks ďSelf-esteemĒ and ďLove In the Time of Human PapillomavirusĒ show off the other side of the band, the softer and slower side. The former is an acoustic track thatís very short and sweet, and the latter is a two-minute track that has an orchestral vibe to it, which makes it rather interesting. It leads into next track ďEvil,Ē which has a banjo and piano as the brunt of the song, as played by Owen Evans. Itís worth mentioning that a lot of musicians do make an appearance on the record, not only Bonnette and Ben Gallanty, who make up Andrew Jackson Jihad. Even stranger, but still awesome, fifth track ďYou Donít Deserve YourselfĒ features a saxophone, and itís a really cool track.
As the record goes on, itís more or less of acoustic jams that are quite fast, and energetic, yet only clock in at a minute or two. Thatís my main problem with this record is that the songs are way too short. I understand that punk rock is a genre thatís not necessarily concerned about song lengths, but while I donít really like albums that drag on too much, this one just goes by. When you think one song is about to keep going, it ends and just moves onto another one, and thatís over before you know it. You donít want to sleep through this record, because you may miss something, sadly. There are some highlights on the second half of the already very short record, however. One highlight comes in the form of ninth track ďTruckers Are the Blood,Ē mainly because itís the second longest song on the record at three minutes. This song is another melodic and softer song, so that alone makes it a highlight. While the songs are rather short, I do admire the diversity and variety in terms of instrumentation. Another highlight comes a few songs later with ďSense, Sensibility.Ē This is the only song Iíve ever heard that features a whistling solo, and itís the weirdest, yet coolest thing that Iíve ever heard. It sounds like something Iíd heard in the film Juno, because that film had a lot of songs like this, which is not a bad thing. Thatís one of my all time favorite films, actually. Closing track ďWhite Face, Black EyesĒ is also another highlight on the record. Itís another acoustic track, but it features a piano and other orchestral instruments to end on a high note.
Personally, I have mixed feelings on this record. I admire the diversity in the instrumentation, but the song lengths are way too short for me. Some of the songs are nice, but most songs clock in at about a minute or two. The fact that these songs have really interesting and unique instrumentation is great, but the fact that they end before they can really go anywhere is a problem. Not a big one, but a problem, nonetheless. Lyrically, this band is also really cool, with themes of politics, social commentary, love, and an internal conflict with the writer on some tracks (such as ďSelf-EsteemĒ), so while I enjoy the lyrics, Bonnetteís voice can get a bit grating after awhile as well. This album is great as a whole, even if itís about 29 minutes. For being the first folk-punk record Iíve ever really checked out, itís certainly interesting to me, because itís something new. Regardless, this was an interesting record, despite being so short. Folk-punk is a genre that Iíve never quite listened to, but this record definitely made me more interested in it.