Here at ChunkyGlasses, we're made up of a diverse group of music lovers, with widely varied tastes. So it should come as no surprise that occasionally we don't see eye to eye on things. Usually we're able to just talk through it and agree to disagree, but sometimes...well sometimes theres only one real way to settle our disputes: THUNDERDOME.
See, way back in 1985 we were shown the way by the now classic third entry into the Mad Max series. And the most important lesson came from Aunty Entity aka TINA TURNER. Say you're the Queen of Rock and Roll and someone thinks that they have the stones to challenge your authority. Are you gonna let them get away with that? HELL NO YOUR NOT! You're going to hook em up to bungee cords inside a geodesic dome, throw in some deadly steel and have them fight to the death. Two men enter...you know the rest
With our path so obviously clear, we give you what will hope be an ongoing series that presents two equally valid, yet diamtrically opposed takes on an album for your consideration. Will it work? Hell if we know, but rather than wreck the landscape with our battle of words, we thought it was best to pay heed to the words of the wise:
"Listen all! This is the truth of it. Fighting leads to killing, and killing gets to warring. And that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up, and everyone talking about hard rain! But we've learned, by the dust of them all... Bartertown learned. Now, when men get to fighting, it happens here! And it finishes here! Two men enter; one man leaves. "
Now, without further ado, let the games begin as Justin and Kevin battle to the death over Jeff the Brotherhood's latest release, Hypnotic Nights.
Your opinion of Hypnotic Nights, JEFF the Brotherhood’s seventh studio album, will depend largely on your appreciation of mid-to-late 90s alternative music. If you’re just head-over-heels about Weezer (or the Toadies or Dishwalla, for that matter, which, if that’s the case, please seek help) you will love Hypnotic Nights. If, however, you’re of the opinion that it’s been more than a decade since music this remarkably devoid of personality was necessary, you’ll sit this one out.
Hypnotic Nights is the musical equivalent of a glass of lukewarm tap water – it’ll quench your thirst, but lacks even the slightest bit of imagination. The fact that the album and two song titles contain the word “hypnotic” is indicative of a band that’s reading too much of their own press. Hypnotic Nights will not hypnotize you nearly as much as it will make you wonder if you heard one of the songs in a 1997 movie that starred one of the non-Aniston cast members of “Friends.”
It’s a shame, as there was potential for a breakout record here. JEFF the Brotherhood is indeed two brothers, Jamin and Jake Orrall of Nashville, offspring of singer/songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall. (This is by no means indicative of musical genius; the elder Orrall penned the abhorrent Lindsey Lohan song “Ultimate.”) The album was produced by Black Key Dan Auerbach, who has always been skilled behind a soundboard. The band’s previous releases, especially 2011’s We Are the Champions, illustrated their progressing “psychedelic-Weezer-Meets-Ramones-Lite” sound. There were high hopes that they could transport that vibe to their major label debut.
They don’t. At all. The album kicks off with two sarcastic three-chord crapburgers, “Country Life” and “Sixpack,” that profess to embrace life in the boonies but is clearly poking fun at the romanticism of country livin’. But its lazy sarcasm and the mind-meltingly awful lyrics (“I want to cool out and get wasted”) don’t get any better as the album progresses.
“Mystic Portal II” starts out interestingly enough with a simple guitar riff and xylophone, but after 38 seconds devolves into yet another flaccid Rivers Cuomo love fest. The song could charitably be compared to music by another band of siblings - Stoned and Dethroned-era Jesus and Mary Chain - but that’s giving JEFF entirely too much credit.
One can easily run through the rest of the songs and immediately cite the obvious influences. “Hypnotic Mind” and “Dark Energy” channel Weezer songs that themselves channeled the Pixies. “Leave Me Out” channels Alice in Chains. “Staring at the Wall” channels early Foo Fighters; not necessarily a bad thing, but the song takes a turn for the insane in its final minute as Auerbach apparently begins randomly turning dials on his soundboard.
Hypnotic Nights’ biggest crime, however, is saved for its final track, a wildly misguided cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes.” Replacing the original’s iconic piano with what sounds like a six year-old noodling with a cheap synthesizer, the song is a slow five-minute train wreck. Employing several gospel singers who are apparently singing neither “Changes” nor the same song as each other makes matters that much worse.
It’s been argued that Hypnotic Nights works best as background music at the bar or barbecue. In reality, you’re better off putting on the Ramones, or Pinkerton, or even “Counting Blue Cars.” If this is the kind of music JEFF the Brotherhood wants to make, they’re better off moving to that country cabin and “smoking meats;” at least that would be creating something worthwhile.
Remember where you are - this is Thunderdome,
and death is listening, and will take the first man that screams.
“I want a place where I can smoke meats.” is the line that kicks of Nashville’s JEFF the Brotherhood’s Hypnotic Nights, their seventh album, and that may be all you need to know about the record. Glam-packed with odes to simple L-I-V-I-N and a stylistic air that can only be described as vanitude (see this link for a good idea of what I’m talking about) Nights is the sweaty bro album that you probably didn’t even know you were waiting for.
But now that it’s here…Well shucks: LET’S PARTY!
With song titles like “Six Pack”, “Mystic Portal II”, “Country Life” (from whence the meat smoking line comes from) and “Region of Fire” there can most assuredly be no mistaking this for what some might call “high art.” No this is the stuff that rock and roll was founded on. Youth. Angst. Psychedelics. Sci-fi. Dungeon masters and Jocks alike are welcome here, as the actual brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall slam down the fuzz pedal and transport the listener to the bedroom of a some anonymous nerdly fourteen year old in a way that hasn’t been this effective since the days when Weezer only came in blue and pink(erton).
It shouldn’t be surprising then, that large portions of Hypnotic Nights borrow liberally, if not outright apes those elder statesmen of nerdcore’s sound, right down to the expertly placed “ooh’s and ahh’s” that float through “Six Pack”, and crushing rhythm guitars, of, well, just about every song on the record. And while Hypnotic Nights at no point approaches the grandeur and atom bomb sized emotional devastation of Pinkerton – and truthfully what really can – it does manage to repurpose the best parts of the Blue album for a crowd that is less concerned with bearing their feelings than they are changing the brakes on their 1968 VW Van while Rikki searches the back seat/makeshift couch cushions for that number that seems to have gone missing, so everyone can blaze up before the bonfire tonight.
Whether Hypnotic Nights is the result of intentional homage, or just a case of wearing your influences VERY transparently on your sleeve is beside the point. It’s refreshing to see the Brotherhood spark these familiar sounds with a sweaty new life, especially on the album closer, a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” a foggy, post party jam with some friends that, more than any other track on the album, lets you know where the brothers Orrall are coming from.
Rock doesn’t always have to be important or super angsty – sometimes it just has to be fun. JEFF the Brotherhood have clearly taken that lesson to heart, and in doing so have created a record that isn’t as deep or important as it is endearing. So while it’s likely that Hypnotic Nights isn’t going to find a home next to heavyweight albums of years gone by, it most certainly will find a permanent home in your spiritual van. Ready to roll anytime you feel like just cutting loose with some bros.
And there you have it. Is there a clear winner? Are both Justin AND Kevin right or did they both perish in the dome? Let us know your thoughts, including any albums YOU would like to see in the Thunderdome, in the comments section below.
We'll return in a few weeks with another installment of Welcome to the Thunderdome to satisfy your bloodlust informational and educational needs. Until then...
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