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JEFF The Brotherhood - We are the Champions

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Artist: JEFF The Brotherhood

Album: We are the Champions

Label: Infinity Cat

Review date: Jun. 14, 2011

Guitar-drum duos have gone from an oddity to an efficiency, the sporty subcompact of rock. JEFF The Brotherhood is one of those front-wheel drive duos that drags its light load everywhere. You can tell this is a band that’s tested its material before a lot of strangers. The songs on We are the Champions are paced to please, slinking through heavy thuds and sudden shifts, showing off how tight the touring has made them. Jake and Jamin Orrall are real-life brothers, and the sons of a Nashville songwriter. They’ve probably gotten to skip some of the missteps that keep young bands from hitting their stride. Career guidance and inter-band tension came built in.

JEFF is decent at sing-along melodies, and Jake Orrall’s voice has the coolgeek lilt of Joey Ramone or Rivers Cuomo. Power pop isn’t at the heart of this band, though. Goofy, nasty riffola is how the Orralls roll, the kind of stuff that seemed hairy or scary in the ‘70s, but has turned to sticky jam as the jeans and headbands lost their threat. The few extra sounds that make it on to Champions – organ, sitar – are post-hippy denim textured.

Like the Iron Virgins or Bang!of yore, there’s not much of consequence to the music of JEFF. "Wastoid Girl,” where Jake adopts the pleas of a partier too wobbly to walk home, is as affecting as they get. Given the slop that’s typical of the scene (the Orralls bashed for an early lineup of Be Your Own Pet), it’s the tightness of Champions that stands out. Jamin is one of those drummers who hits on the microsecond. Bands with that kind of ruthless timekeeping (AC/DC, Wire come to mind) can make simple licks cut. Jake knows enough to never overplay when he’s got such support, and cut he does.

And yet, with so little in the mix, it can be a liability. Played next to messier duos of the last decade, you’d swear JEFF has spliced in some of the accuracy digitally. It breaks the spell of easy-going heaviness. They aren’t actually cheating – a video shows them locked in the pocket while kneeling on a lumpy bed. And road-house warriors who recorded to analog tape had to have that kind of chops. So while "Bummer,” "Shredder" and "Ripper" live up to the action noun slang of their forefathers, JEFF could use a basser. They pull off a wide sound for a duo, sometimes creating too much space. There’s some room in the back seat for more low end. Then they’d really boogie.

By Ben Donnelly

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