Long before the shitshow of 2016, AJJ tried to warn us about what lurked beneath American civility. Abusers. Nazis. “Politicians too.” Since 2004, the folk/punk (not folk-punk) band has been a sort of desert prophet, emerging regularly from the 120° Arizona heat to take America to task for all the hypocrisies it won’t admit. White privilege, violent impulses, religious madness. All the colors of the flag.
Over the last 15 years, AJJ have achieved incredible success solely on the back of their songwriting, and the uncompromising clarity of their lyrics. At the end of 2017 they celebrated the 10 year anniversary of 2007’s People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World with more than 50 sold out shows across the U.S., Canada, UK, and Europe.
And while that album remains a high water mark in the folk-punk genre, the band has grown considerably in the last decade. After two diverse full lengths for SideOneDummy (two of their best yet), AJJ now bring us Ugly Spiral: Lost Works 2012-2016, a collection which sheds light on the band’s expanding sound between People and now. A number of unreleased studio cuts (like opener “Space and Time,” and the incendiary “Blood, Hatred, Money, and Rage”) find their place alongside live favorites like “Now That I’m At the Top of My Game,” songs previously only available on vinyl, and alternate takes of album highlights.
With most tracks culled from sessions with Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Cloud Nothings), and legendary Mesa, AZ producer jalipaz nelson, Ugly Spiral is a surprising and robust album, offering new listeners a compelling overview of one of America’s great DIY bands, with plenty of new gems for the hungry fan.
It’s not always pretty, but there lies the beauty. Just don’t say they didn’t warn you next time some gross American shit bubbles up to the surface.