For a band often lumped in the same indie-punk bracket as acts like The Front Bottoms, there’s something decidedly unique about AJJ. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but it’s definitely there, and that’s what sets them apart from the rest of this scene. Just one listen to sixth album ‘The Bible 2’ is enough to justify that – this is some of the most skewed but interesting fare the genre has produced in some time.
The musical basis of AJJ’s sound conforms with all the typical hallmarks of indie-punk – rickety acoustic guitars, a very slight jangle and, in Sean Bonnette, a wordy and slightly awkward frontman with an affable sad-sack persona. But while most bands exacerbate that to their full support image, it’s merely the foundation of AJJ’s output. On ‘The Bible 2’ there’s squalling keys (‘American Garbage’), galloping folk-punk energy (‘Cody’s Theme’) and more that fleshes this album out and prevents it from being merely a collection of genre tropes.
It definitely helps that it’s all very likeable as well. Bonnette is endearing as a vocalist – his wavering voice means he constantly sounds like he’s on the brink of tears, but he never over-emotes, and it works to his advantage on tracks like ‘White Worms’ and ‘Junkie Church’. What’s more, the whole thing is framed with a very upbeat tone, amplifying the rousing qualities that this band already have in spades.
As is the case with pretty much all of this sort of thing, ‘The Bible 2’ isn’t for everyone; it’s a bit too wonky and jittery to really have mass appeal. But this is the sort of album that sprinkles some innovation into a genre that’s often characterized by its formulaic nature. For that alone, AJJ deserve all the praise they can get.
‘The Bible 2’ by AJJ is released on 19th August on SideOneDummy Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)