Back In The Jazz CoffinSelf Released
By Cole Faulkner
If you had told me that folk-punk outfit AJJ was going to be a hugely successful underground staple over the past thirteen years, I may have laughed the suggestion off. After all, how long could an acoustic band keep their edge writing social satire through silly themes like cannibalism, cigarette commercials, and the untimely demise of kittens? Well, apparently quite a while. Not only has the band gone through several significant stylistic shifts – from wiry acoustic champions to fuzzy garage punks – but they’ve managed to sustain their unmistakable wit through each incarnation.
Their latest EP, Back In The Jazz Coffin, is an oddity in the AJJ world as the band actually takes a step back in time and revisits their former acoustic selves. Opener “American Body Rentals” is a classic sub-minute opener in the tradition of those like “The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving” and “Cigarettes.” In this case, the band generates a playful little jingle based around body image and expectation. “You can get it on top, at American body rentals, anything you want, at American body rentals,” sings Sean Bonnette, elaborating on the benefits of enhanced popularity and friendships. It’s a concise, surefire classic for AJJ fans and ideal entry for the EP.
The band then jumps back into a simple take on their classic full band acoustic formula with “Blood, Hatred, Money and Rage 2.” The song plods along with acoustic guitar, keyboard, and other subtleties as they detail the confrontational mentality that contemporary America hungers for in the metaphor, “that’s the food that I eat, the juicebox that I crave.” The track loses a little steam mid-way in a heavily distorted guitar, but it does little to reduce the poignancy of such statements. The remaining trio of songs meander through politically themes of border patrol saboteurs, employ lutching guitars with heavy distortion on “My Crooked Leg,” and conclude the EP by reverting back to a heartfelt acoustic less-than-apology to a lover once wronged.
Overall, AJJ provide a pleasant little diversion and supplement to their existing catalogue and direction. The band released the EP as a surprise without warning, somewhat framing the disc as non-canon, and justifying the band’s deviation from their aural chronology. The disc isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but none of AJJ’s past EPs ever have been. They’ve always been more of a repository for fans to uncover individual nuggets. It’s been quite a while since the Phoenix, Arizona quartet has played around with something less formal, and the return is more than welcome.