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Music / AJJ

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From left to right: Preston Bryant, Sean Bonnette, Ben Gallaty, Mark Glick

"I hate whiny fucking songs like this
But I can't afford a therapist
Sorry guys
Here's a solo."
AJJ, "Distance"

AJJ (no relation to AJR), formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad, is an American folk punk band from Phoenix, Arizona. The band was formed in 2004 when its original drummer, Justin James White, approached Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty, who have remained the only two constant members of the band since.

The band are noteworthy for their minimalist sound, self-deprecating wit, comically dark lyrics, and ability to write ridiculously catchy songs about very strange things. They have released seven studio albums, five compilations, and four EPs:

  • Candy Cigarettes & Cap Guns (2005, self-produced)
  • Issue Problems (EP, 2006)
  • People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World (2007)
  • Only God Can Judge Me (EP, 2008)
  • Operation Stackola (EP, 2009)
  • Can't Maintain (2009)
  • Candy Cigarettes, Capguns, Issue Problems! and Such (Compilation, 2011)
  • Knife Man (2011)
  • Rompilation (Compilation, 2012)
  • Rompilation 2.0: The Digitizing (Compilation, 2014)
  • Christmas Island (2014)
  • Ugly Spiral: Lost Works 2012-2016 (Compilation, 2016)
  • The Bible 2 (2016)
  • Back in the Jazz Coffin (EP, 2017)
  • Only God Can Judge Me and More (Compilation, 2017)
  • Good Luck Everybody (2020)

The band provides examples of:

  • Knight in Sour Armor: There's a lot of real heart behind all that darkness. Especially clear on Knife Man tracks like "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad" and "People II 2: Still Peoplin'."
  • Odd Couple: The main two members of the band are a social worker and a gravedigger, which should paint a fairly accurate picture of the band's worldview.
  • Wunza Plot: See Odd Couple.

Their music provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Sean's 'mentor' in "Sad Songs" calls him Steve.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: There are 28 words in the first stanza of "A Song Dedicated to the Memory of Stormy the Rabbit," and 19 of them begin with F.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • The final lyric on Knife Man is its title, but it's nearly impossible to hear.
    • "People" comes very close to dropping the title of People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World, but ultimately doesn't.
    • The title of Good Luck Everybody is the final line of both "Normalization Blues" and "A Big Day for Grimley"
  • Alcoholic Parent: "'Nother Beer."
  • The Alcoholic: "Fucc the Devil:"
    The flask is an alcoholic's paintbrush
    The flask is an alcoholic's toothbrush
    I need to go throw up now
  • And That's Terrible!: Said verbatim in "People II 2: Still Peoplin'."
  • Anti-Love Song: "Darling, I Love You," a saccharine love song from the point of view of a bigoted, sadistic, misogynistic, homophobic, and overall crude and detestable character.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "People II: The Reckoning"; "Child pornographers and cannibals, and politicians too."
  • Artistic License – Biology: In "People II"; "Your parasympathetic nervous system reacts, and you're in fight-or-flight mode." It's the sympathetic nervous system. This is a big deal to med students.
    • Sean likes to point out this mistake when playing "People II" live, as seen here.
  • Audience Participation Song: "Big Bird," "Bad Bad Things," "People II: The Reckoning."
    • The final lines of "People II 2: Still Peoplin'."
  • Awesome, but Impractical: "Still Smokin'." "Smoking is like hiring a hit man for five dollars a day, and as cool as that is, I don't wanna keep dying this way."
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Inverted in "Let Us Get Murdered."
    And you've been looking for an honest way out for too long,
    because suicide is not the key.
    And you hate the taste of alcohol and medicine.
    Well the answer, the answer, the answer is plain to see.
    So come along, lets get murdered!
  • Bittersweet Ending: Knife Man concludes with "Big Bird."
  • Black Comedy: As black as the void of space is empty. It's generally used as a way of slightly lightening the mood of their extremely bleak music.
    • "Smoking Makes You Cool" is about how smoking killed Sean's grandfather and will probably kill him one day.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The music video for "Goodbye, Oh Goodbye" repeatedly breaks the fourth wall by having the musicians interact with the camera and having stage hands visible in shots. Taking it further, the video immediately transitions into a "Making Of" documentary about the video they just finished shooting, where band members and various crew members deliver insider information about how the video was made.
  • Broken Aesop: "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad" criticizes things like giving homeless people spare change or buying them cheap food as empty gestures that don't really help the recipient and only make the giver feel better about themselves, but the alternate suggestion the speaker of the song offers, taking the homeless guy to a shelter or soup kitchen, is just as temporary and unable to resolve the heart of the person's problems.
  • Call-Back: "Big Bird" reprises some of the lyrics from "Distance."
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi."
  • Covert Pervert: One of the fears listed in "Big Bird" is that "you all know I am a pervert."
  • Cover Version: They've played snippets of "Zombie" by the Cranberries in concert... not to be confused with the song they wrote themselves called "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad."
  • Country Matters: "We Didn't Come Here to Rock." Generally changed to "balls" during live performances.
  • Crapsack World: "Hope is for presidents and dreams are for people who are sleeping."
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In "Rejoice"; "Your hair, it smells like burning hair."
    • Combined with Non-Indicative Name: "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad" by AJJ. It is not a cover of "Zombie" by the Cranberries.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sean's dad abandoned him.
    • From "Who Are You:" "Thank you so much for not raising me / you spent your life on better things / and you would have been an awful dad / thank you though for those genes you had!"
  • Doo-Wop Progression: Used frequently
    • People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World: "Brave as a Noun," "No More Tears"
    • Can’t Maintain: "Heartilation"
    • Knife Man: "American Tune," "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad"
  • Downer Ending: People The Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World seems to avert this with the highly idealistic "People".
    • However, the song's sequel, "People II: The Reckoning", which appears earlier in the album, is very cynical, so it may just be subverted.
  • Dull Surprise: "David J. is a Siccness:" "It was then that I found I am a vampire..."
  • Eat the Rich: "Mega Guillotine 2020", about turning the guillotine on prominent rich people in society.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In "Darling, I Love You," an absolutely horrible narrator who delights in seeing people and animals suffer recounts how much he earnestly loves the person he's singing about, telling them that yes, he enjoys being an awful human being, but he also adores them and misses them dearly.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: The popping sound heard on “Kazoo Sonata in Cmaj” is producer Jalipaz Nelson hitting himself in the face 106 times, according to Can’t Maintain’s liner notes.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Brave as a Noun" transitions flawlessly into "Survival Song."
    • The rain at the end of "Free Bird" can be heard at the beginning of "Big Bird," and some versions of Knife Man include the opening chords of "Back Pack" at the end of "American Tune."
    • "Heartilation" into "Self Esteem."
    • "Temple Grandin" segues into "Children of God."
    • "We Shall All Die Alone Someday" into "Forest Fire."
  • Fear Song: "Big Bird" is a long list of the speaker's worries that includes dying of cancer, not being able to support his family, and that everyone knows he is a pervert.
  • Functional Addict: "Inner City Basehead History Teacher." "I dunno what I'm gonna do, but I'm probably gonna get high!"
  • Genre Mashup: "Big Bird" was conceived as "sixties girl-group pop, like Phil Spector-style, combined with doom metal."
  • Gift of the Magi Plot: Referenced in "Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi", although it doesn't quite work like in the story as both people sell the same thing.
    "She sold her soul to buy some tits and I sold my soul to grow a dick"
  • Growing Up Sucks: One of the subjects discussed in "A Song Dedicated To The Memory Of Stormy The Rabbit".
    • And, unsurprisingly, in the song "Growing Up".
  • If I Had a Nickel...: A lyrical pattern in "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad", which is mostly variations on "If I had an X for every time a perfect stranger asked me for an X,..."
  • "I Hate" Song:
    • "Hate, Rain on Me" is a song about hating everything, but most of all yourself.
    • "Psychic Warfare" is about the band's outright hatred of President Trump
  • Incredibly Long Note: The end of "People II 2: Still Peoplin'," especially live.
  • Job Song: "Truckers are the Blood" is about working in various ways and ends up praising truckers.
  • Kids Are Cruel: "Getting Naked, Playing With Guns."
  • List Song: "Big Bird" is a list of all the things the narrator is afraid of.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: Sean is in one with his girlfriend. This is what "Distance" is about, and possibly "I Wanna Rock Out in My Dreams."
  • Long Title: People That Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World
    • That album's eighth track, "A Song Dedicated To The Memory Of Stormy The Rabbit"
    • "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad."
  • Looped Lyrics: From the reddit AMA that the band did:
    Greenautobus: can I buy a salad glove?
    AJJTheBand: you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove you can buy a salad glove
  • Love Martyr: "Love in the Time of Human Papillomavirus"
  • Mercy Kill: "Temple Grandin." Made more explicit in "Temple Grandin Too."
  • Metaphorgotten: "Fucc the Devil" consists entirely of one of these.
  • Miniscule Rocking: As a punk band, this happens frequently. "The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving" is only twenty seconds long and contains a single stanza.
  • Mood Dissonance: Apparent in many, if not most of the band's songs.
  • Murderers Are Rapists: Averted with "Bad Bad Things"; the mother in the family offers her body to the killer in exchange for the life of her family but he continues without mercy.
  • Murder Ballad: "Bad Bad Things", a ballad told from the perspective of a serial killer coming back to finish the job on a person whose family he already killed.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: "No Justice, No Peace, No Hope" is a pretty savage critique of the United States, from an American.
    The ghost of great America
    Was underestimated
    And now it rages like a cold sore
    On the lip of this dumb nation
  • Non-Appearing Title: "People II: The Reckoning," "People II 2: Still Peoplin'," "Bad Bad Things," "Heartilation," "Love in the Time of Human Papillomavirus," "Dipping Things in Stuff," "American Tune," "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad," "This is Why I'm Hot"
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Parodied in the titles of "People II: The Reckoning," "People II 2: Still Peoplin'," and "Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi." In addition, "People II: The Reckoning" comes before "People," the song it's a sequel to, on People That Can Eat People...
    • The band has joked that their next album will feature "People II 2 Act II: The Peoplening."
  • One-Word Title: "Rejoice" and "People".
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: The Salad Glove: fist-fuck your hunger!
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Can't Maintain tends not to get mentioned in critical discussions about the band, being overshadowed by the irreverent weirdness of People That Can Eat People and the sprawling ambition of Knife Man. Even so, it is generally considered by fans to be among their best works.
  • Parody Commercial: The Crescent Ballroom performance of "People II 2: Still Peoplin'" features Sean narrating an advertisement for the salad glove during the extended bridge.
  • Parody Product Placement: The music video for "Goodbye, Oh Goodbye" is intentionally bland, unenthusiastic, and underwhelming, but everyone involved treats it like it was an amazing, difficult, and groundbreaking piece of art. The end contains an extended plug for Soylent, which apparently sponsored the video. Notice any parallels?
  • Power Ballad: "Big Bird" and "Back Pack" qualify, though they're particularly bizarre and unconventional examples of this trope.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Rejoice", "Brave as a Noun," "Sad Songs"
  • Protest Song: Nearly every track on Good Luck Everybody is some way an indictment of the political situation of 2020 USA, but "No Justice, No Peace, No Hope" is particularly pointed in calling out issues such as racism, greed, lies, and corruption in society. It also takes its name from a common protest chant.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: The killer in "Bad Bad Things" loses his cool after he sees his own reflection ("A coward who you and i both hate very much") in his victim's eyes.
    • "And I smashed those tiny mirrors inside of your skull!"
    • Also in "Forest Fire":
      You see a liar in the mirror he's sneering in that way.
      That makes you feel unsafe, insane and you hate to see his face.
      You punch the mirror to shut him up but he won't go away.
      He just multiplies, intensifies, he's twenty tiny blades.
  • Rearrange the Song: As the band has gained members, new versions of older songs have popped up in live performances. These include a fast-paced, more obviously 'punk' version of "People II: The Reckoning" and a more grandiose, metal-influenced version of "Unicron."
  • Recurring Riff:
    • "People" and "Sense and Sensibility" have pretty much the same melody.
    • "Sad Songs" and "A Good Day For Grimley" have a very similar chord progression that gives them a similar feel.
  • Recycled Lyrics: "Little Prince" & "Dipping Things in Stuff."
    • "I am at the mercy of emotions of my better friends," - "And my emotions are at the mercy of my best of friends."
    • "And I wanna a be a big ball of meat that bees can buzz around and eat" - Unicorn, "And I'd like to be a big ball of meat/That bees can buzz around and eat when I die" - A Song Dedicated to the Memory of Stormy the Rabbit
  • Religion Rant Song: "Rejoice" is Type 1. "Gift of the Magi 2," to an extent, though it tempers the harsher sentiments- "Fuck God, anyway! God is obsolete!"- with "Well, my god thinks my jokes are funny..."
  • Running Gag: The Salad Glove, an exciting new product by AJJ...
    • References to Nic Cage movies recur throughout their discography ("Heartilation," "Coffin Dancer," "Angel of Death").
  • Sampling:
    • The bridge of "Survival Song" copies the entire chorus of "Do Re Mi" by Woody Guthrie. The verse immediately following the bridge pokes fun at this.
    • "People II: The Reckoning" features lyrics and guitar riffs lifted from "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon & Garfunkel.
  • Self-Deprecation: The choruslyrics  from "Heartilation."
  • Serial Killer: The viewpoint character of "Bad Bad Things" and "Lady Killer".
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Brave as a Noun"/"Survival Song."
    • "Free Bird" and "Big Bird" work as this on Knife Man. On the Christmas Island tour, "White Face, Black Eyes" served as the lead-in to "Big Bird" instead.
  • Single Stanza Song: "The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving"
  • Shout-Out: They sometimes name their songs after other songs ("This is Why I'm Hot," "Zombie by the Cranberries by Andrew Jackson Jihad," "Free Bird") sometimes with minor alterations in the title ("Love Will Fuck Us Apart.")
    • The title of "Fucc the Devil" is a reference to Sacramento horrorcore rapper Brotha Lynch.
    • "Do Re and Me" references hardcore punk band Man is the Bastard. "Coffin Dance" and "Angel of Death" reference Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans ("Shoot him again, I can see his soul dancing...").
    • "People II: The Reckoning" references "Mrs. Robinson" by Paul Simon, ("So here's to you, Mrs. Robinson/people love you more, oh nevermind...") and continues on, with the same melody and guitar as the original song.
    • The album title "People who can eat people are the luckiest people in the world" is a reference to "People" from Funny Girl, which contains the line "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world".
      • The altered quote originally comes from Kurt Vonnegut's Hocus Pocus.
    • "Joe Arpaio Is a Punk" shares the opening of Dead Kennedys' "California Über Alles" and closes with the chorus "Arizona über Alles". It also drops in a few lines from The Misfits' "Last Caress".
    • Their EP 'Only God Can Judge Me'' shares its name with a Tupac song.
    • The cover for Operation Stackola is based on the album of the same name by rap duo Luniz.
    • The fourth verse of "Survival Song" is lifted entirely from the chorus of the Woody Guthrie song "Do Re Mi," which the lyrics admit, in addition to referencing Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.
      And we totally ripped off a man named Woody Gutherie
      And I bought a restaurant for his son named Alice
    • "Sorry Bro" includes the chorus of "Kids in America" by Kim Wilde.
    • "Psychic Warfare" has a cello riff that somewhat resembles the one in Coldplay's "Viva La Vida". While that song includes musings on heaven, "Psychic Warfare" prominently involves damning someone to Hell.
  • Social Media Before Reason: "#armageddon", in which people spend the Apocalypse taking pictures and posting while Satan's minions mercilessly slaughter everyone.
  • Sole Survivor: In "Bad Bad Things", the singer is addressing the only surviving member of a family he killed.
  • Stepford Consumer: "You know, before the Salad Glove, I was really going nowhere in life."
  • Studio Chatter: "Personal Space Invader" ends with Ben Gallaty saying "...sounds like shit."
  • Stuffed in the Fridge: "Back Pack" was inspired by the prevalence of this trope in action movies. The song is told from the perspective of a guy whose girlfriend was brutally murdered, and him dealing with the aftermath.
  • Stylistic Suck: The video for "Goodbye, Oh Goodbye" parodies music video tropes by being very half-assed and unenthusiastic. The band members do a very simple and unenthusiastic dance consisting mostly of small jumps and head nods, stagehands repeatedly run through the shot, and at one point Sean goes up to the camera and turns it to the side with his hand. Music video staples like confetti and balls that add color are added in comically underwhelming amounts, and the obligatory guy in an animal suit is sidelined and occurs in the periphery of shots. The whole thing is shot in a bland and visually unremarkable warehouse. Once the song ends, everybody involved burst into cheers and multiple people talk about how proud they are of how the video went.
    Choreographer: "I would have liked the dancing to be a little better, but you know, I went to school for this."
  • Subverted Kids' Show: The music video for "Mega Guillotine 2020" has a colorful, sunny, cartoony landscape inspired by the Teletubbies, but depicts a guillotine decapitating various real-life billionaires while Sean and Ben's floating heads cheerfully sing in the sky.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "Unicron."
    I deserve displeasure
    And I really want to cry
    And I think you should spit in my face (AAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUGHHHHH)
    because I am a werewolf.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Maggie", off of Good Luck Everybody, is a sweet love song about a dog that stands out on an album full of incredibly bleak, politically-charged lyrics.
  • Take That!: "Scenesters."
    Oh my god, there's assholes everywhere!
    Pretentious fucking assholes everywhere!
  • Take That, Critics!: Or Take That, Audience!. "We Didn't Come Here to Rock." The song bashes people who listen to music entirely to say it's bad, which could be aimed at critics or audience members (it's popular at live shows).
  • Three Chords and the Truth: The core of their music is simple instrumentation and bitingly satirical and personal lyrics. Their later albums deviate from this somewhat, as they started to incorporate more instruments, distorted guitars, and even some electronic sounds.
  • Title: The Adaptation: "Guilt: The Song"
  • Title Track: They've sort of tiptoed around this a few times. "People" comes close to being People That Can Eat People's title track but technically isn't, and they have an unreleased song called "I Am the Knife Man" which would have been this for Knife Man had it not been cut.
  • Torture Porn: The second verse of "Back Pack" is absolutely brutal. You can hear Sean's voice cracking as he sings it.
  • Troll: The phone number given in the Salad Glove commercial is actually the number for the Westboro Baptist Church.
  • The X of Y: "The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving."

And that's a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge... BUMMER!

Alternative Title(s): Andrew Jackson Jihad