JEFF The Brotherhood
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
You can say lots of things about JEFF The Brotherhood, but “predictable” is not one of them.
The Nashville-based duo — sons of songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall, neither named Jeff — has slung out a remarkably diverse sound since its 2002 inception. From the hard rock/punk verging on metal of their earliest work, to garage, post-punk, indie, experimental and noise rock, then shifting to a more atmospheric approach, the twosome relish in never being the same band twice, often on a single album. While the expect-the-unexpected tactic may be commendable as an art project, it’s not a prudent way to attract and hold onto a fan base or forge a career.
Regardless, they must be doing something right since they can now be considered veterans at their craft. The brother’s 13th (!) full length is yet another twist in the road though. This one jettisons most of the oblique rock from their previous release along with any sense of the pair’s garage origins, instead making a rather radical move to an 80s styled space/synth/jam groove.
It’s an intricately planned concept. Where the siblings would often record entire albums in less than a week, this one they labored over for five months. Many tracks emerged from studio jams that were edited down and overdubbed into loosely assembled “songs.” Incomprehensible lyrics were added later. Publicity notes say the words are synthesized from Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, Studio Ghibi films, and sci-fi anime, all of which shows their density and mysterious references which will likely be lost on the average listener.
The album’s tone varies wildly from the Hawkwind heaviness of “Farewell To The Sun,” to the droning world beat of “Wasted Lands,” the drugged-out dreamy bad trip of “Heavy Journey,” the thick, chunky metal chords of “Magick Man,” and the floating, peaceful instrumental “Singing Garden.” Brothers Jake and Jamin employ guests on some selections, thickening and varying the sound with sax, violin, extra guitar and the sensuous vocals of Jenna Moynihan from Daddy Issues.
That’s a lot to absorb in just under an hour. And even if this seems like a compilation disc from different bands rather than a cohesive statement from a single entity, JEFF The Brotherhood is just doing more of what they are known for, perhaps taken to a new extreme. Some of Magick Songs will lull you with soothing sounds, some will crack your skull apart in an abrasive fit of intensity. Listeners with liberal tastes and open ears will find enough quality music here to satisfy them for as long as it takes to plow through and absorb it all, which could be a while. Those new to the band will likely find their head spinning too quickly to grasp it all. But no one will complain it’s boring.