When AJJ dropped their eerily prophetic album, Good Luck Everybody, in 2020, one may have asked themselves how the band could possibly top themselves. Nevertheless, the record’s successor, Disposable Everything, has seemingly done just that. Written in the aftermath of a global pandemic, their 8th studio album and Hopeless Records debut is a strong body of work. In addition to signing to a new label, this is also the band’s first time recording as a quintet, with the recent induction of Kevin Higuchi on drums.

Album opener “Strawberry (Probably)” comes in with guns blazing. The rowdy bop carries itself with it the spirit of an excitable puppy that’s finally been let off leash at the dog park. Higuchi immediately proves his mettle, ripping through fills behind the kit, as every member matches each other’s energy one-to-one.

The dizzying exuberance does eventually simmer down into the mid-tempo “Dissonance.” Like a lot of the album, however, its musical cheeriness is somewhat deceptive. Musings of morality and a feeling of instability lie just beneath the song’s bright and shiny surface.

Much like the opening track, “Death Machine” similarly puts the punk zeitgeist in folk-punk. Full of pep and bounce, AJJ somehow makes the notion of living in an ailing dystopian society almost seem fun.

Changing pace, “White Ghosts” provides listeners with a soft and affectionate side of the band that is rather alluring. The sweetness lingers, flowing smoothly into “Disposable Everything.”

The title track is a tender lullaby for the apocalypse, commenting on the harmful ecological impacts of modern-day consumption. Rather than anger, vocalist Sean Bonnette instead seems to be in a state of calm acceptance as he ponders human nature through lyrics that flow like an existential stream of consciousness. Bonnette’s mind is certainly a unique treasure, and this track’s profound introspection only stands as proof.

“The Baby Panda” serves as a continuation of the environmentalist streak, this time tackling the theme of extinction. “I let the baby panda die and now it’s not coming back / I saw the blood in its eyes, its fur was no longer black / It’s not coming back.”

Markedly there is an undertone of grieving that runs through the album. The recent passing of Bonnette’s mother—who was also a musician and notable prog rock fan—colours the record. Her presence can be felt frequently in the form of passing lyrical mentions. Most interestingly, she is honoured once more on “A Thought of You”; a number that steadily bobs along, only to break out into a trippy prog jam as a sort of musical tribute.

Disposable Everything simply wouldn’t be a complete AJJ record without further expanding upon their career-long love-hate relationship with humanity. In addition to potentially adding a new word to some listener’s vocabulary, “Schadenfreude” provides a brutally honest confession where amusement and suffering is concerned. “I want more schadenfreude, thank you, please / I’m so filled with hate, I can barely contain / All my joy when a dickhead is thwarted.” Although he is careful not to become an advocate for anti-social pleasures, later stating “And I’m so fucking bitter, I can barely remember / That you reap what you sow and you sow what you reap.”

“All of my Woulds” serves up a healthy dose of classic AJJ self-deprecation, where regrets and failures are examined with humility against a breezy musical backdrop.

With Disposable Everything, AJJ are arguably at the peak of their craft. The band successfully displays their full range, from the blood-pumping “The Baby Panda” and “Death Machine” to the more delicate “White Ghosts” and “Candles of Love.” Overall, AJJ offers up plenty of strong hooks and a few strategic risks on this record, all while still remaining as quirky as ever.

Disposable Everything Track Listing:

1. Strawberry (Probably)
2. Dissonance
3. Moon Valley High
4. Death Machine
5. White Ghosts
6. Disposable Everything
7. Baby Panda
8. A Thought of You
9. Candles of Love
10. I Hate Rock and Roll Again
11. Schadenfreude
12. I Wanna Be Your Dog 2
13. All of My Woulds
14. In the Valley

Run Time: 34:59
Release Date: May 26, 2023
Record Label: Hopeless Records