Sunday, July 24, 2011

JEFF the Brotherhood: We Are The Champions

     JEFF the Brotherhood are a Nashville duo who actually slipped under the radar for me until 2009's 'Heavy Days'. They formed way back in 2001, releasing their first lp, 'I Like You', in 2002, and boast a current discography of six albums, along with a pretty cool live recording. Their sound is a tad unoriginal though, in that it takes influences from many different artists. The group have been likened to The Ramones, and this eleven track album feels like the direction people wanted Weezer to take for a while. Indie rock sensibilities make love to classic rock guitars here, with a nice attempt at variety that's truly charming but doesn't really work. The passion and energy here doesn't stop tracks merging in parts, and the lyric writing is most definitely not the best. The production is inspired, but in my opinion the little individuality that's here gets suffocated by that inspiration. I think I would have just preferred an actual influence, as opposed to the dedicated reproduction of sounds that we've already heard before. After the hazy psychedelia that was 'Heavy Days', I'm underwhelmed by JEFF the Brotherhood's latest lp, which does include those elements, but frankly, doesn't execute them half as well. I'm not in love with this record, but like most of their stuff, it is fairly enjoyable while it lasts.
     That being said, there are a few stand-out badges this album wears. The first being the opening number 'Hey Friend'. It's grimy, reverb-laden guitars have a great groove to them and when the phased, heavy sounds eventually fade-out and the distortion ceases, the quirky lyricism is introduced. A tale of a lad telling his friend he fancies their mother. While most of the lyricism here is predictable and boring, this particular track is wonderfully unique. The variety I mentioned before is most noticeable however on the next song, 'Cool Out'. The sound takes a harder edge, with the faster drums and guitar emulating a breathlessness that I really enjoyed. The lyricism though, feels like it's there because it has to be, rather than because it has something to say. Effects-wise, they're the only real individuality here, and were the only thing that stopped this record from losing my attention completely. From the propeller blades at the start of 'Shredder' to the muffled nostalgia of 'Endless Fire', this album's production is polished extremely well, but unfortunately no amount of decoration can prevent a structurally bad house falling down.
     The electric guitars on 'Ripper'. The folky tambourine and hilariously high wailing on 'Health and Strength'. The free-for-all playfulness of a post-apocalyptic world on 'Wastoid Girl'. Those three are the only remaining tracks that did anything for me. The rest all sound the same and sonically merge together. 'Diamond Way', 'Stay Up Late'. 'Mellow Out' has a nice guitar solo but even that highlight is eventually dulled. I guess there just isn't anything all that original on this album. The influences, from Weezer especially don't appeal to me. I don't dislike Weezer at all, but if I wanted to listen to a Weezer sound, I'd just go and listen to one of their records, as opposed to this exceptionally good imitation.
     Overall then, I don't hate this effort from JEFF the Brotherhood, but I certainly think they've put out better stuff in the past. There are some good effects, and the production is outstanding. My main complaint is the lack of half-decent song-writing skills throughout from this American duo, as well as their glaringly obvious homage to other artists. If they'd taken their influences and worn them a little subtler, then I can easily imagine myself setting my iPod to repeat and rocking along to their energetic and passionate sound. I don't dislike this album, but there's nothing on it that makes me want to listen to it again.

'Hey Friend'