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AJJ

Xiu Xiu, Emperor X

Thursday, May 28
Show | 8pm // Doors | 7pm
$20

AJJ

AJJ frontman Sean Bonnette can summarize the band’s new album, Good Luck Everybody, in a single sentence: “Sonically, it’s our least punk record, and lyrically, it’s our most punk record.”

And indeed, Good Luck Everybody (January 17, 2020), the Arizona band’s seventh album, stands out in their already diverse catalog. While still rooted in the folk-punk sound AJJ has become known for, the album is unafraid to delve into new territories that test the limits of what the band is capable of. 

“I think it explores some of the weirder sides of AJJ, the more experimental leanings that we’ve had in the past,” says bassist Ben Gallaty. Good Luck Everybody draws from a wealth of sonic inspirations, from Laurel Canyon folk-rock of the 60s and 70s to avant garde artists like Suicide, as well as some orchestral pop. There is even a piano ballad, the tragic “No Justice, No Peace, No Hope.”

Lyrically, Good Luck Everybody is a change of pace from the idiosyncratic songwriting style Bonnette has honed over more than 15 years fronting AJJ. It still features his wonderfully weird turns of phrase and oddball word pairings, but this time, his thematic lens is more directly focused on the inescapable atrocities of the world around him. Longtime fans will recognize the album’s social commentary as a return to their 2011 release, Knife Man, but this time it’s fueled by a more radical urgency.

“I usually try for a timeless effect in songwriting, so that you can hear a song and generally not think about the context under which it was written,” says Bonnette. “But for this one, I was trying to write, and all the bad political shit just kept invading my brain and preventing me from writing that way. So I decided to fully embrace it and exorcise that demon.”

Much like Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs pulled their songs straight from newspaper headlines, Good Luck Everybody feels like a long scroll through social media feeds on a particularly volatile day.

The song “Mega Guillotine 2020,” for example, came directly from Twitter. It was influenced by Twitter funnyperson @leyawn’s popular tweet depicting a mockup of a French Revolution-style guillotine with one blade and enough headrests for 15 Congress members. Bonnette says the idea inspired him to press record and start playing, and when he did, the entire song came out of his brain fully formed. The final version also features backing vocals by Kimya Dawson.

“There’s something that comes along with scrolling through your phone on Twitter or Instagram and seeing a puppy, and then a joke from a comedian, and then a young black person being shot by police, and then another puppy, and then your friends announcing a tour, and then children in cages,” says Bonnette. “There’s something in that that fucks your brain up. I don’t know if it’s made me more of a passionate arguer or just made me confused and numb.”

On “Normalization Blues,” Bonnette laments what this never ending deluge of atrocities has done to our humanity: “I can feel my brain a’changin’, acclimating to the madness / I can feel my outrage shift into a dull, despondent sadness / I can feel a crust growing over my eyes like a falcon hood / I’ve got the normalization blues, this isn’t normal, this isn’t good.”

Later, on “Psychic Warfare,” Bonnette takes out some aggression on the man at the root of it all, albeit through his trademark polite aggression: “For all the pussies you grab and the children you lock up in prison, for all the rights you roll back and your constant stream of racism / For all the poison you drip in my ear, for all your ugly American fear, I wrote you this beautiful song called ‘Psychic Warfare.’”

After years of partnering with Asian Man Records and SideOneDummy Records, AJJ is releasing Good Luck Everybody on their own, via their new label AJJ unlimited LTD, with Specialist Subject Records handling the European release. Bonnette and Gallaty also produced the record themselves and, in addition to their usual cast of collaborators (Preston Bryant, Dylan Cook, Mark Glick, Owen Evans), it features guest appearances from Thor Harris, Jeff Rosenstock, and Laura Stevenson.

“One thing that makes me rather giddy is that without a label or a producer, our listeners will have no one to blame besides us for the way our sound has changed,” laughs Bonnette.

For all of its dark leanings and its pessimistic reflections on modern culture, AJJ hopes that fans will ultimately come out of the album in a hopeful place. By its final track, “A Big Day for Grimley,” it feels like AJJ is holding the listener’s hand, staring at the looming apocalypse ahead, and whispering a message into their ear: Good luck, everybody.


Xiu Xiu

It could be handfuls of reds
It could be turning Caravaggio’s Boy with Basket of Fruit to face the wall
It could be a commission by the Guggenheim entitled Deforms the Unborn
It could be the demon Vetis, whose friends call Him The Life Promiser
It could be that in 1918 a pregnant Mary Turner was hung upside down from a tree by a lynch mob while they cut out her fetus & that this could happen today, as it did then, without consequences for whitey
It could be handfuls of natural pearls
It could be collaborations with master Haitian drummers
It could be doing the wrong thing together forever
It could be long lists of how The Devil’s acts towards children before, during & after their possession
It could be short lists of produce, insects & imagined blues musicians
It could be handfuls of an insane 9 year old’s feces smushed on the lunch table
It could be a psychedelic Chicago house song about a pig & about your parents
It could be your dad’s new husband gave you his boyhood viola
It could be a collaboration with master Yoruba drummers
It could be handfuls of cactus spines & a poison dart
It could be your sister has cancer & they keep chopping parts of her body off
It could be a conscripted arco bass piece that was a dedication to Turkish feminists
It could be Jack Smith has a film called Normal Love
It could be scisssssssors, air conditioner tubes, glasses of ice & seashells
It could be handfuls of hot pink Make Noise 1/8inch audio cables
It could be that Nature is making it clear to us that we deserve it and that we are making it clear to Her that we are ready, ready to go
It could be a short novel called The Rhythm Section Talked about Drugs, The Horn Players Talked about Ass & The Strings Talked about Money
It could be improvised vocals by Elliot Reed & orchestrated vocals by Eugene Robinson
It could be that European religious paintings of male martyrs depict them surrounded by chubby, adoring angels, everyone’s tearful mothers & converted sex workers dutifully sponging out their holy & shallow wounds
It could be that European religious paintings of female martyrs depict them with their nipples being torn off, throats branded & their naked torsos flayed while they are totally alone aside from the men torturing them
It could be handfuls of Diamanda Galás & Roy Orbison action figures
It could be that despite the confusion of this life, people who can still truthfully call themselves human try to push through 2019’s collecting horror
It could be slowed down & fuzzed out field recordings of disappearing frogs
It could be flat purple & black or glossy black & purple
It could be mescal in a bottle & baby on a boob, hair dyed blonde for nobody, nobody move
It could be handfuls of that you just have to stop being a wuss & deal with it
It could be…

Emperor X

I write and record and study and sing and yell and yell and yell and yell and sing and yell and yell.