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For their sixth album, garbage-pop veterans AJJ chose to reinforce their strengths and leave any limp frivolities behind. They reconvened with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Xiu Xiu, Chelsea Wolfe), who oversaw 2014’s sonically expansive Christmas Island, but recorded and mixed the album in a mere nine days, having arranged most of the songs during tour sound checks and down-time in the van. This made for a confident stride into more elaborate arrangements and wider dynamics while staying just as dour. They also opted, amid some sensation, for the simplified band acronym (previously Andrew Jackson Jihad). Singer Sean Bonnette told The A.V. Club that, among many reasons, the change cleared a space for new imagery and allowed their music to define them, not their band name.
As a result, their new album, The Bible 2, is their most ambitious and assured collection of scuzzy punk screeds, employing even more production heft while sparing none of the vulnerability. The album’s mantra is placed right at the center: “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread”. The Bible 2 finds the band choosing intimacy over isolation, gravity over the vacuum, the stage instead of the scene. The album is also an examination of boyhood from an adult distance, putting some of its tumult and pain to rest.
It’s also the most impressive work of Bonnette’s, who has honed his confessional lyrical prowess into a punk inflected mire of Trent Reznor’s unrestrained turmoil, Jamie Stewart’s profane gallows humor and a touch of David Berman’s surreal quotidian imagery.