Jeff The Brotherhood’s latest LP, We Are The Champions, opens with an epic instrumental jam that lasts for a minute and three-quarters. It’s the sort of thing Beavis and Butthead would’ve headbanged to for hours, with its chugging, minor-key guitars and powerful, kick-snare drum groove. It builds and builds and builds until, all of a sudden, everything drops out, and guitarist/singer Jake Orrall deadpans the record’s long-awaited first words: “I’ve been thinking about your mom/You can’t tell me if it’s really wrong.”
Priceless or ridiculous, you decide, but Champions‘ opening two minutes establish the tone for the rest of the record, a breakup album (you can’t help but wonder if the breakup had something to do with that aforementioned opening line) that greets emotional turmoil with sizable helpings of garage-rock swagger and overt, screwy humor. The formula doesn’t get much simpler: two brothers (neither of which is named Jeff) who’ve jammed together since before they hit puberty and have, over the past 10 years, slowly built a loyal following from their Nashville home base.
On Champions, the two-piece alternates between evoking Weezer’s Blue Album (“Bummer,” “Endless Fire”) and the Ramones’ breakneck hi-hat-and-snare barn burners (“Cool Out,” “Stay Up Late”). Then there’s the new-wave-y “Diamond Way,” as well as “Ripper,” which incorporates half-time sections that sound straight out of an early Black Keys record. But what always stays constant is the cheeky, devil-may-care attitude that drips from every guitar riff and vocal line.
Jeff The Brotherhood is that guy—you know, the friend of a friend who always somehow gets invited to your parties; the guy who cracks you up with his antics in one moment (the inhumanly deep voice that says, “That sounds so spiritual,” while sitars loom at the beginning of “Health And Strength”) and in the next makes you roll your eyes (with a line like “I want to go outside and play/And there is nothing you can do to make me stay”).
Champions is less than 35 minutes long, but some of its elements begin to grow old on a full listen-through. The Orralls are rather fond of those steady, quarter-note vocal phrasings (though it’s difficult to write anything else at 200-plus BPM), which they use on eight of the album’s 11 tracks, and the whole goofball shtick starts to lose its charm after a while. But that’s OK. Until now, most talk about Jeff The Brotherhood has focused on the band’s raucous, carousing live shows, at which hundreds of sweaty dudes congregate at the foot of the stage to crowd-surf, hang from the rafters and have the time of their lives. The songs on Champions might not add up to the best record proper, but those guys in front of the stage probably could care less. They’ve got some more fuel for the party, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.