a2344894986_10If AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad) wants listeners to come away from its new record, The Bible 2, with any kind of slogan, it’s probably the one that’s plastered across the album’s cover and referenced twice in record’s lyrics (once as a song title and chorus, once as a reprise): No more shame, no more fear, no more dread.

As far as folk-punk sloganeering goes, that’s pretty good stuff. On its face, It’s a far more cheerful message than AJJ has traditionally put out (never mind the fact that there is more than enough evidence to suggest the phraseis less about overcoming adversity and more about turning oneself into the devil).

Throughout its decade-long career, the band has made a living and developed a ravenous fan-base with its poetic, clever and well-observed songs about the depths of shit that people heave upon each other. What brings people back – what brings me back – is how that message of “everything is fucked…” is partnered with a message of “…but we’ve got to keep trying.”

For every “People II: The Reckoning” (sample lyric: “There’s a bad man in everyone, no matter who we are / there’s a rapist and a nazi living in our tiny hears / child pornographers and cannibals and politicians too / there’s someone in your head waiting to fucking strangle you”), there is a “People” (“People are my religion / because I believe in them / people are my enemies and people are my friends / I have faith in my fellow man / and I only hope that he has faith in me”). Even the husband who divorces his wife because she becomes less fuckable after a haircut is someone who is, at their core, worth rooting for. AJJ is a band that looks upon the grossness of humanity, points out the rotten parts, and still hopes for the best.

That bold-faced optimism is best reflected in “White Worms,” my personal standout from The Bible 2. By the band’s lyrical standards, it isn’t really much of a song at all; a narrator sees white worms crawling out of his own dead skin. Where it hits home is in the prechoruses; “If you don’t want to feel the feeling / no one should ever make you feel the feeling / some dumb dick says ‘don’t stop believing’… / don’t don’t stop believing.” This is the message that powers the band, the message that keeps me coming back. Life is too short and too ugly to let anyone tell you how to move through it. If you want to listen to the devil’s music, you should listen to devil’s music.