Christmas Island, released in May of this year, is the fifth studio release by the frantic sons of Phoenix, Andrew Jackson Jihad. A band that forged their sound by joining the genres of folk and punk rock to make something that’s arguably more interesting than either, this release sees them turn in a solid effort three years on from the critically acclaimed Knife Man.
An interesting lot they are, definitely not a band you would come across on your everyday travels, and they have the sound to match – the album is lit up by acoustic guitars being battered to within an inch of their strings’ lives with warbling punk vocals before rounding to more conventional-sounding tracks which seem to provide more of a platform for the group to exercise their renowned wordplay (personal highlight is Getting Naked, Playing With Guns).
If you’re a devoted follower of this group then I can imagine that this album is a satisfactory effort and I wouldn’t advise people against listening to this release, but it’s not something that I would shout about – dismiss this as personal opinion, but a group that relies on acoustic guitars and the odd bit of synth has got to do something pretty spectacular to avoid being slung in the category of “The Rest” and unfortunately that’s where this album will wind up for me.
As someone that holds their hands up to not being too familiar with this group, there have been a couple of instances over the course of the album where I had glimpses of just what brings people that satisfaction in listening to Andrew Jackson Jihad. There’s the occasional big number song which provides the small-scale drama that I like in my music, such as the appropriately named I Wanna Rock Out In My Dreams which sounds in itself as though it should be part of some indie-rock-opera. It is an interesting combination, folk-punk, and one that certainly shows off its strengths on tracks like Kokopelli Face Tattoo – the overdriven guitars coupled with the quivering vocals give the track a nervous energy which will get your feet moving.
That nervousness seems to be transformed into something more frenzied on the track Deathlessness, a song that does at least question my earlier judgement on this band as being something around average, before the album is closed out by two of the album’s quieter tracks.
To summarise then, this album is an example of decent record-making; it has some bright points which serve to highlight the rest, but for the most part this record isn’t going to set the world alight. Without a doubt I can see that this band have a certain appeal and their style is commendable, but past that this release is one that will probably sit on most people’s CD racks (assuming people still buy CDs like I do…) not drawing any attention to itself.