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When punk gets too serious Andrew Jackson Jihad lends it perspective

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

Recently, much has been made of Rectal Hygienics, a Chicago hardcore band that boasts lyrics that have gained notoriety due to their sexually aggressive nature. The debate rages on between punk’s often-warring subsets (P.C. punks vs. the anti-censorship sect) as to whether the band is a collection of misogynistic oafs or if it’s making a perverse statement regarding sexual politics of society as a whole. As Rectal Hygienics prove, it’s hard to toe the line in a scene built on being so damn earnest, especially when the people on both sides are always ready to ostracize and decry something that falls outside of a specific ideology. But, punk needs its wars to fight, and if Rectal Hygienics is in fact serving as a virtuous shit-stirrer it could learn a hearty lesson from the band that does it best: Phoenix’s Andrew Jackson Jihad. 

The foundation of Andrew Jackson Jihad has always stemmed from the interplay between vocalist-guitarist Sean Bonnette and upright bassist Ben Gallaty, and through its transition from a two-piece folk-punk outfit to a full-on punk band it’s never lost sight of the importance of calling out the scene for all its beautiful hypocrisies. Bonnette’s take on issues has always been blurred, as his Jeff Mangum-esque imagery turns love songs into evocative vignettes of a world that rarely has a silver lining.

On Live At The Crescent Ballroom the band wisely devoted a chunk of its set to Bonnette’s solo performance, and when he offered up the new track, “#armageddon,” he reminded the audience how he can effortlessly toss a billion implications in the air without positioning himself as a preacher at the pulpit. On its face “#armageddon” is a song about the rapture–the Earth cracks, the dead rise, and Satan joyously pops wheelies on his bike that’s adorned with decapitated heads fashioned to look like King Diamond and Peter Criss–and the fact that we’re too busy tweeting about it to even pay it much mind. It’s an allegory about the desire to weigh-in on trending topics and photograph each fleeting moment; squandering experiences through the nascent need to hastily document it. As is customary, Bonnette avoids sloganeering, dowsing each word in the sardonic wit that allows for a few chuckles and some nods of self-actualization, all before the world he’s created gets swallowed in hellfire.

It’s inevitable that punk rock will always be fighting some kind of new, intra-scene controversy, but it’s that kind of heightened passion for something so small that will also keep it alive. Though certain agitators may always be points of discussion there will always be Andrew Jackson Jihad, the band that allows punks to draw lines in the sand while still having a laugh.