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Listen to Andrew Jackson Jihad’s demented Christmas Island right now in full

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“During the period of writing this record it became difficult to write songs,” says Andrew Jackson Jihad’s vocalist-guitarist Sean Bonnette. This could, in part, serve as a contributing factor to why the prolific band slowed a bit following the release of its fourth album, Knife Man, in 2011. “I kind of forgot how to play guitar right, and everything I was writing was the same kind of boring-ass rock-structure songs,” says Bonnette, who in his decade fronting the Phoenix band has rarely dealt in rock tropes. If anything, Bonnette and bassist Ben Gallaty have always been focused on dismantling rock characteristics instead of embracing them. When Bonnette emerged from the songwriting funk it was with newfound purpose, and Andrew Jackson Jihad’s fifth album, the maniacally evocative Christmas Island, proves it was worth the wait.

Bonnette uses the first few seconds of “Temple Grandin” to fake out the audience, as his strumming of an acoustic guitar quickly gives way to a rush of keyboards, drums, and reverb freakouts. What follows can’t help but feel like the product of Jeff Mangum writing an album during a vivid fever dream, and it’s all the more fitting given that “Children Of God” was the product of such an experience, with Bonnette noting he “actually wrote [it] when I had a fever. I was watching this vampire movie, and I just read the Wall Of Voodoo chapter in Songwriters On Songwriting, and I got to come up with some imagery I really enjoyed.” It’s these bright, bouncy bloodbaths that prove even as the band’s grown, Andrew Jackson Jihad hasn’t lost its subversive edge.

The production of John Congleton offers vibrancy to Bonnette’s rich hallucinations and pop-culture references (ones that reach from Stevie Wonder and Man Is The Bastard to the Slap Chop), and as the music alternates between rocking and delicate, so do the album’s themes. “I was getting ready to accept the death of my grandfather. A lot of the songs like ‘Coffin Dance’ and even ‘Linda Ronstadt’ I think have some of that, and [Christmas Island] tries to capture that feeling of catharsis and overwhelming emotion that you can’t really explain,” says Bonnette, and this marriage of catharsis and witticisms allows Christmas Island to strike a balance.


This mix profundity and punchlines make Christmas Island Andrew Jackson Jihad’s most weighted album yet, and though it won’t be out for another week, The A.V. Club has an advance stream of the album below. Andrew Jackson Jihad will also be on tour for the bulk of this summer, a run that, in Bonnette’s words, might get “a little theatrical.” 

Andrew Jackson Jihad w/ Cheap Girls & Dogbreth: 
June 2–Red 7–Austin, Texas 
June 3–Fitzgerald’s–Houston, Texas
June 4–Siberia–New Orleans, Louisiana
June 5–Jack Rabbits–Jacksonville, Florida
June 6–Crowbar Ybor City–Ybor City, Florida
June 7–BackBooth Bar & Venue–Orlando, Florida
June 8–High Dive–Gainesville, Florida
June 9–Masquerade Hall–Atlanta, Georgia
June 11–Strange Matter–Richmond, Virginia
June 12–Rock N Roll Hotel–Washington, D.C.
June 13–Union Transfer–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 14–Le Poisson Rouge–New York, New York
June 16–The Sinclair–Cambridge, Massachusetts
June 17–Waiting Room–Buffalo, New York
June 18–Grog Shop–Cleveland, Ohio
June 19–Magic Stick–Detroit, Michigan
June 22–FirebirdSt. Louis, Missouri
June 23–Conservatory–Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
July 4–Lee’s Palace (TURF)–Toronto, Ontario
July 5– Toronto Urban Roots Fest (TURF)

Andrew Jackson Jihad w/ Hard Girls & Dogbreth
July 13–Marquis Theater–Denver, Colorado
July 15–The Waiting Room–Omaha, Nebraska
July 16–Bottom Lounge–Chicago, Illinois
July 17–Kryptonite–Rockford, Illinois
July 18–7th Street Entry–Minneapolis, Minnesota
July 19–Pyramid Cabaret–Winnipeg, Manitoba
July 20–Louis’ University of Saskatoon–Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
July 21–Brixx Bar & Grill–Edmonton, Alberta
July 22–The Palomino–Calgary, Alberta
July 24–Biltmore Cabaret–Vancouver, British Colombia
July 25–El Corazon–Seattle, Washington
July 26–Alhambra–Portland, Oregon
July 28–Slim’s–San Francisco, California
July 29–Rio Theater–Santa Cruz, California
July 31–The Irenic–San Diego, California
August 1–Crescent Ballroom–Phoenix, Arizona