AJJ – ‘Good Luck Everybody’

By Tom Walsh

A new year is meant to bring optimism. We speak of turning over a new leaf, make resolutions to better ourselves, and attempt to cut out those bad habits – that’s how it’s meant to be, or at least that’s what we like to think. Then, the reality of a new decade arrives. The continent of Australia is on fire as arguments over climate change continue, the global political situation seems on an eternal knife edge, there’s floods in Indonesia, endless suffering in Yemen, and, of course, Brexit and more impending Tory austerity.

It seems only fitting, then, that 2020 marks the return of Arizona folk punks AJJ, ready to spin their unique take on the current mess the world finds itself in. And, while there was a time when AJJ would offer up some light, the exasperation and helplessness many people feel is reflected in the repeated use of the phrase ‘Good Luck Everybody’.

The band’s seventh LP is a blend of cutting takedowns on the powers that have led us to this end point, and a panicked rambling of the futility the world finds itself in. The bluegrass infused ‘Normalization Blues’ carries the poignant opening line of “I can feel my brain a’changin, acclimating to the madness. I can feel my outrage shift into a dull, despondent sadness”; it’s a head-shaking, facepalming description of a world hurtling towards extinction.

Front man Sean Bonnette possesses the perfect vocal style for an end of days record, with a subtle trembling in his voice that hints at a bigger pain. The achingly beautiful, and desperately bleak, ‘No Justice, No Peace, No Hope’ puts Bonnette behind the piano as he regrettably informs us that “we’ve slipped inside a pit of absolute despair, that’s where we live now, until we don’t.”

There are brief moments of trademark AJJ snark with ‘Mega Guillotine 2020’, inspired by a tweet that depicted a guillotine capable of beheading 15 members of Congress at once. Its tongue-in-cheek narrative raises a brief smile, but it does make you wonder – if a mega guillotine ran as a candidate, people would probably vote for it.

Bonnette regularly turns his ire onto America’s beloved president, describing him as a “weapon of the evil men who really run the show”, while the visceral lullaby of ‘Psychic Warfare’ sees AJJ proclaim to have written a beautiful song for “all the pussies you grab and the children you lock up in prison”.

There is a lot of darkness in this record, but AJJ are determined to provide a little hope – that hope essentially being that we’re all in this together. Closing track ‘A Big Day for Grimley’ is almost a wish list of what the world could be; “solitude for the stoic, mearth for the merry, a quiet room for the overwhelmed, arcades for the ADHD, health for the sickly”. It’s like a hand to hold as we watch the apocalypse edge ever closer, a faint whispering of “good luck, everybody” passing through our ears as the final sound we hear is a jolly whistle punctuated by the muffled sounds of falling bombs.

What else can you say to a world hellbent on destroying itself? ‘Good Luck Everybody’ is a record to match the sentiment we all feel deep down inside – and when you think 2020 could be different, you know it probably won’t be.

TOM WALSH 

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