Good Luck Everybody, the long-awaited seventh studio album from AJJ out January 17, 2020, is a grim glimpse into the tidal wave reality of modern life in America. It’s a collection of songs that will undoubtedly stand out in the band’s 15-year catalog; while still rooted in the folk-punk sound AJJ has become known for, the album is unafraid to delve into new territories that test the limits of what the band is capable of.
Produced by vocalist Sean Bonnette and bassist Ben Gallaty, and featuring guest appearances from Thor Harris, Jeff Rosenstock, Kimya Dawson, and Laura Stevenson, Good Luck Everybody comes out on January 17, 2020 via their new label, AJJ unlimited LTD, and on Specialist Subject Records in Europe.
Sonically, Good Luck Everybody is AJJ’s least punk record but lyrically, it’s their most punk––it’s a noticeable change of pace from the idiosyncratic songwriting style that has become Bonnette’s signature. His wonderfully weird turns of phrase and oddball word pairings are still ever-present, but this time, his thematic lens is more directly focused on the inescapable atrocities of the world around him.
Much like Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs pulled their songs straight from newspaper headlines, Good Luck Everybody feels like a long scroll through social media feeds on a particularly volatile day.
“There’s something that comes along with scrolling through your phone on Twitter or Instagram and seeing a puppy, and then a joke from a comedian, and then a young black person being shot by police, and then another puppy, and then your friends announcing a tour, and then children in cages,” says Bonnette. “There’s something in that that fucks your brain up. I don’t know if it’s made me more of a passionate arguer or just made me confused and numb.”
Drawing inspiration from literally all over the place, including Laurel Canyon folk-rock of the 60s and 70s to avant-garde artists like Suicide, as well as some orchestral pop, there’s a lot to take in here. There’s the shockingly-funny “Mega Guillotine 2020,” inspired by @leyawn’s viral tweet depicting a mockup of a French Revolution-style guillotine with one blade and enough headrests for 15 Congress members … Bonnette’s intense commentary on post-2016 life in “Normalization Blues” ... and there’s even a piano ballad in “No Justice, No Peace, No Hope” (for which Bonnette apologizes: “I’m truly sorry for how bereft of optimism this song is. I can’t control the way I feel and I can’t lie to my piano.”).
photo by Steph Carrico
When AJJ released their breakout album, 2006’s People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World, George W. Bush was the president of the United States. Songs like “People II: The Reckoning” outlined our collective nihilism while “Rejoice” celebrated the beauty in all of it anyway; it was an album that defined the relatively-hopeful feeling at the time that things would and could get better.
Now, nearly fifteen years and five albums later, AJJ returns with an album that, like People…, will undoubtedly define the feeling of post-2016 life in America. But for all of its dark leanings and its pessimistic reflections on modern culture, what AJJ does on this album is remarkable. It still serves to share one central message: basic human connection is the path to our collective return to sanity. It’s an album that will mark a time in our culture that cannot and will not be forgotten, and one that we will hopefully be able to learn from and grow past.
- A Poem
- Normalization Blues
- Body Terror Song
- No Justice, No Peace, No Hope
- Mega Guillotine 2020
- Psychic Warfare
- Your Voice, as I Remember It
- A Big Day for Grimley