Phoenix, Arizona’s AJJ have recently found themselves as one of the biggest names in folk punk (even if that name has gotten a whole lot shorter since they started out in the scene). Their music has been noted for its unique arrangements and clever lyrics that express both humor and anxiety in such a way that the listener finds themselves simultaneously uncomfortable and excited. AJJ’s latest release, The Bible 2, incorporates all the witty lyricisms and commentary listeners have come to expect from AJJ with a grandiose sound and exciting arrangements worthy of a band that helped put folk punk on the map.
The Bible 2 opens with “Cody’s Theme”, diving right into the strange reality of a troubled childhood. Singer Sean Bonnette half sings-half shouts about parent teacher conferences, taking anger out on trees and other objects, and being a “total dick” as a child. The song is loud and exciting, filled with distorted guitar riffs and a chorus that manages to convince you to dance to a song about a really troubled kid while still wondering if he turned out ok.
“Junkie Church”, one of a few singles already released from the album, is another highlight track. Musically, it is very different from “Cody’s Theme”, much gentler and smoother, focusing on acoustic guitar and cello with gentle crescendos instead of heavy distortion. There’s a strange hopefulness to the song, as Bonnette sings about going to the titular junkie church and being showered in compliments. He responds to “all the things [he] needed to hear” in kind: “I love you ‘cause I love you ‘cause I can.”
The Bible 2 seems to experience a tonal shift with every song. The synth-heavy “American Garbage” leads into the anthemic “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread”; the fuzzy and distorted “My Brain is a Human Body” into the manic “Terrifyer”. In this, AJJ show off their incredible musical range, but it hurts the cohesion of the album as a unit. The tracks are great on their own, but as someone who prefers to listen music by album rather than tracks, The Bible 2 feels disjointed.
The album is exactly what we’ve come to expect from AJJ: witty, creative, and sonically unique. While it doesn’t feel incredibly cohesive as an album, each of the eleven tracks is a pleasure to listen to and reveals new depth with each repetition. If you haven’t pre-ordered a copy, definitely go pick one up on release day: August 19th.
Rating: 6 out of 8 slices