When you roll with Ted Leo and Ian Svenonious, you must be at least kind of sort of OK I guess. I mean, Leo is too nice of a guy to have bad taste in music, right? Sure enough, his tourmates JEFF the Brotherhood (ex-Be Your Own Pet guitarist and drummer Jake and Jamin Orrall) aren’t too shabby, as evidenced by their full-length debut Heavy Days. Noisy, psychedelic, grungy, even ever so slightly post-punk, JEFF feels like a stroll through the best record collection ever (Whispers of Wire, Sonic Youth, Devo, Talking Heads, and Chisel come to mind).
What keeps Heavy Days so invigorating is its subtle diversity. One minute it’s heavy and Sabbath-derived (“Dreamscape”), then it’s angular and danceable (“Bone Jam”). The opening eponymous track slowly introduces the band’s key elements. What begins with flies buzzing is trampled by steady, pounding drums, followed by sludgy guitar. Think Big Business or Mudhoney. Then the stoned-out vox kick in. And hey, tambourine. That’s cute. By the time the Brotherhood brothers get to the guitar solo, “Heavy Days” is in full-on jam nirvana. From there, the record explores all available side streets. “U Got the Look” is a logical follow-up to “Heavy Days” – still psychedelic – but there’s this slight turn that gives it a nervous post-punk energy, abetted by the back-ups “oohs” and “ahhs.” Out of nowhere, “The Tropics” provides a slow dance opportunity for kids with bad haircuts. Then just as suddenly, “Heavy Krishna” turns into a Pink Flag B-side before then transforming into a Master of Reality holdover.
At nine songs, Heavy Days might seem slim to some, but given that the set lasts 31 minutes, I think it’s a fair amount. The band gets in, struts and slops for a bit and gets out. Which, given how raw and primitive the songs get at times, makes sense.
I realize that the Be Your Own Pet connection might be a deal-breaker for some (“Be Your Own Band,” my buddy T.R. used to call him). And admittedly, JEFF doesn’t (re)invent anything here; it’s only rock ‘n’ roll. But dang it all, these brothers know what they’re doing, which is making rock music that is occasionally booty-shaking, head-bobbing, seizure-inducing, “I can taste colors and see sounds”-ing, and just generally good.