May 27, 2011

Review: JEFF The Brotherhood :: We Are The Champions

I caught JEFF The Brotherhood live for the first time last week. I expected to be blown away and—despite the four-band lineup and short set time—I absolutely was. The first 15 minutes or so of the show was simply Jake and Jamin Orrall warming up—trading heavy riffs and drum breaks with long pulls of beer, as the brothers found their edge and timing, working their way into the first song. Regardless of the limitations of the setting, the Orrall's play was simply ferocious with Jamin providing the backdrop for Jake to dance around his pedals and release an unrelenting six-stringed assault. The fact it was just two cats making all that noise was astounding.

JEFF The Brotherhood have been putting out releases on their Infinity Cat imprint since high school and now the duo have made the big leagues, bringing their riff-punk and Infinity Cat roster to Warner Music. Perhaps that's why they decided to up the ante with their latest album, We Are The Champions. The speed, manic drumming, and grungy head-banging guitar work is all still intact, but brothers Orrall have found a way to hone that signature sound and talent into the sharpest of pop songs—a fistful of catchy and tight two-and-a-half minute testaments to the band's near constant touring over the past year.

On songs like "Bummer" and the slow falsetto-laden jam "Endless Fire," The Weezer comparisons are inevitable. I'm not talking about the lame washed-up band that recorded "Beverly Hills" or named an album Hurley after a Lost character and snowboarding company, but the group that recorded classic alternative pop records like Pinkerton and The Blue Album. The similarities lie in the vocal melodies and phrasing—and paired with Jake's frenetic guitar and Jamin's dynamic drumming—the contrast between the light and catchy singing and heavy instrumentals works brilliantly. That's not to say these songs don't sound distinctively like JEFF—because they do. Rivers Cuomo never had the raw muscle or fearlessness that's made JEFF so endearing and fun to follow. Take "Wastoid Girl," whose first two-minutes sound like a straight alternative pop song, only to devolve into psychedelic waves of wah-wah effected guitar and a soloing sitar. The brothers know their blues, grunge, and the miscellaneous rock offshoots, but at the end of the day, the attitude is all punk (see the energetic frenzied "Ripper").

Personally, I'm a pop guy—I'm in this for the hooks—and JEFF The Brotherhood's pop instincts have never sounded stronger than on "Diamond Way." Between the addictively fun "ooh, ooh, ooh" vocal line, Jake's signature switch between clean and distorted gain-heay guitar, and Jamin's impossibly fast drum breaks, the song boasts two young musical minds at their creative peaks (at least to date). I couldn't tell you what the song is about ("Turn on the light, turn off the lights / It makes no difference. / We are the children of the night, / What is the consequence?"), maybe getting too drunk or high at a party and feeling lost? I simply don't know. And sometimes it doesn't matter where a song is going—sometimes you're just happy to be along for the ride.

We Are The Champions is out June 21st. Pre-order the vinyl at Insound. The LP pictured above is the second pressing of the tour-only edition. 

JEFF The Brotherhood - "Shredder" (from We Are The Champions)
JEFF The Brotherhood - "Diamond Way" (from We Are The Champions)

Jeff the Brotherhood

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