Andrew Jackson Jihad - Can't Maintain (Cover Artwork)

Andrew Jackson Jihad

Andrew Jackson Jihad: Can't MaintainCan't Maintain (2009)
Asian Man Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: matt_bnames
(others by this writer | submit your own)

If you were fooled by Can't Maintain, the latest from Andrew Jackson Jihad, then you haven't been paying attention to history. Presumably, most acoustic acts grow weary of the limitations their medium subjects them to; there is only so much one can do with an acoustic guitar (and I suppose a stand-u.
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If you were fooled by Can't Maintain, the latest from Andrew Jackson Jihad, then you haven't been paying attention to history. Presumably, most acoustic acts grow weary of the limitations their medium subjects them to; there is only so much one can do with an acoustic guitar (and I suppose a stand-up bass, in this instance). So, like many before them -- most notably, for this conversation, Bob Dylan and Against Me! -- Andrew Jackson Jihad have embraced the other side of the musical spectrum and included electrical elements on their latest offering.

Upon the initial listen, many will become instantly conscious of the noticeable changes. The second "Heartilation" opens up with is dead strumming, and drums entering the musical arena. The characteristically short song gives way to another percussion-assisted, self-deprecating track, "Self Esteem." These first two songs serve to demonstrate an evolving duo in an audience-friendly, albeit even if it doesn't seem so, given what is to come next.

AJJ exploit this moment to expand upon their growing sound, using the opening electric and percussion tracks to prepare listeners for strings, horns, a kazoo (in which a whole ballad is devoted to, and pulled off quite well) and electrical, seemingly looped, effects. Banjos, bells and vocal reverb is also used to further develop and layer the once minimalist, simplistic style that litters the band's back catalogue.

However, past these cosmetic changes, not much has changed. Most of the songs feature the fast, upbeat tempo with AJJ's typical lyric flow. Frontman Sean Bonnette is still as meta-critical as ever, singing about his absent father, a pretentious music scene and how to live as a self-loathing bastard -- a lot of self-loathing. A lot. In fact, this may be one of the band's most depressing records to date, if you can imagine that (there's no disguising it. It's hard not to sulk with Bonnette as he sings "we could live there together / or I'll live alone less happy / But I'll live / unfortunately").

This isn't to suggest it's old or trite; in fact, quite the opposite. One of the resounding compliments of this album is its ability to expand the band's musical palate. Anyone can add a few instruments and pass it off as "progress." However, Bonnette and Ben Gallaty have attempted to stretch the bounds of their simple folk posturing. Can't Maintain -- which undoubtedly is referring to the emotional and mental stability of Bonnette, if not also commenting on a much grander idea -- can be interpreted as a reference to a band that can't stay stagnated or in routine. From the rock-influenced "You Don't Deserve Yourself," with its swinging rock horns and electric guitar solo, to the looping and ostensibly avant-guard pandering in "Kazoo Sonata in C Major" and "We Didn't Come Here to Rock," Andrew Jackson Jihad is showing they are more than a one trick pony.

The most successful aspect to Can't Maintain is how the whole experience sounds natural; that is, perhaps at first it stands out like a sore thumb, but after two or three listens, one doesn't even notice that this is a vastly different band than Candy Cigarettes and Cap Guns. By keeping the new instrumentation dispersed and not overwhelming, coupling it with more traditional AJJ songs ("Sense, Sensibility"), one doesn't even flinch at the vocal reverb on "Truckers Are the Blood" or the lush and growing horns on "Evil." It seems familiar -- the best outcome for a growing band looking not to alienate their still fragile fan base.

While still testing what is tried and true, Can't Maintain bridges out, if only marginally, to stay fresh and interesting. And for that, it maintains (no pun intended) relevant -- thus worth the attention.


People who liked this also liked:
Andrew Jackson Jihad - People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the WorldBomb the Music Industry! - ScramblesAndrew Jackson Jihad - Knife ManThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Dear Landlord - Dream HomesThe Gaslight Anthem - American SlangAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseBomb the Music Industry! - Vacation

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
tylerk (November 3, 2009)

The same great poignant, depressing style... now in electric! Top notch.

ThoughtRiotAF578 (October 18, 2009)

i don't know if this makes sense to anyone else, but one of the reasons i love this band so much is that they can be so negative about themselves, but they seem to be positive about it. this album really plays with that, and its awesome.

matt_b (October 16, 2009)

Yeah. I don't know what happen in terms of this review. I remember it not being so grammatically fucked. But after reading it there turns out to be a bunch.

danielsan (October 16, 2009)

These first two songs serve to demonstrate an evolving duo in an audience-friendly, albeit even if it doesn't seem so, given what is to come next.


brangelina (October 15, 2009)

This is *the* perfect record. I love it more than I can express.

ThoughtRiotAF578 (October 15, 2009)

i wonder if they're going to tour as a three piece now.

yousurewearpantsalot (October 15, 2009)

Love this record more than anything they"ve done before. everything is solid and the kazoo solo is amazing. jeff r played some awesome trumpet and sax on this too. white face,black eyes is the song to end all songs

thepopeofchili-town (October 15, 2009)

Well-written review but I don't really agree with it. There's only a few songs on here I really like, and I LOVE all of their previous stuff. This was kind of disappointing.

EDIT: Supposed to a 3, not a 1.5

allagespete (October 15, 2009)

Mattramone was drunk texting me about this album last night. Those texts and this review are getting me really excited to hear this.
Score is for matt's drunk texts. and the review.

CBSrocksteady (October 15, 2009)

oh my god. Truckers are the Blood. BEST fuckin song.

Slazey (October 14, 2009)

An album that, although you could never accuse it of perfection, is the absolutely definitive statement of the band so far.

My favourite album of the year. Remarkable in so many ways, innovative in ways you wouldn't expect. Poignant and postmodern in a way most bands could only dream of.

blanktapesemptybottles (October 14, 2009)

they played the whole record live at the middle east I'm pretty sure, on acoustic and a stand up bass, go figure.

aggropaul (October 14, 2009)

Such a good record. I went to this record rellease show and saw them play with bomb the music industry. So awesome.

booker_pee (October 14, 2009)

Acoustic artists don't necessarily need to get tired of playing acoustically. Look at the goddamn Mountain Goats.

preston (October 14, 2009)

rules. I wish they'd take a big band with them on tour to play all these different instruments. Some day.

Hey_Ska (October 14, 2009)

Incredible. Self Esteem is my new favorite AJJ tune.

scientistrock (October 14, 2009)

Love it. They had drums before though. I think almost all of Cand Cigarettes and Capguns had drums tracks.

ashtraymonument (October 14, 2009)

fantastic album and follow up to People. great fucking dudes.

RAMBUNCTOID (October 13, 2009)

One of my favorite bands, and definitely their best full-length. However, the kazoo sonata and the long pause after "We Didn't Come Here to Rock" kind of mess up the albums flow. But other than that, all I can do is get excited to see what they'll do next. Sean is becoming an incredible songwriter.

quoteunquoterecords (October 13, 2009)

Two releases in a row now that feel perfect. Well done, Jihad.

cheesetits (October 13, 2009)

I can't stand the vocals of this band, I don't get the love.

24hourpriapism (October 13, 2009)

one of my favorites of 2009. "love in the time of HPV" and the very last track are among the best things AJJ have done.

ffwoodycooks (October 13, 2009)

top 5 of the year for sure.
Who Are You? is one of my favorite tracks to come out this year.

Asian Man has been firing on all cylinders as of late.

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