Nashville’s JEFF the Brotherhood clawed its way from basements to the big time over the last decade, thanks to live shows that were like sweaty body slams.
The guitar-drums duo of actual brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall fuses garage and stoner rock with power pop to create songs that are melodic but powerful enough to leave you with mystery bruises the next morning.
The Orralls have been adhering to this simple formula since they were teenagers, which makes it all the more baffling how JEFF could misfire so badly on “Hypnotic Nights,” a bland major label debut that’s lacking in brute force and compelling hooks.
These 11 songs certainly glisten, but they are scrubbed so thoroughly that any real sense of personality has been washed away, a bleak reminder of alternative rock’s dying days in the late ’90s. The album’s highlights (“Sixpack,” “Hypnotic Mind”) sound like Weezer leftovers: goofy, chug-a-lug rockers with lyrics that could kindly be called mindless. Good luck finding a more willfully stupid line this year than “It’s pretty hot out . . . I wanna cool out/And get wasted.”
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach handles production duties and doesn’t manage to do much besides make JEFF sound like a more rudimentary version of his own band. (No easy task.) There are a few instances of an extended sonic palette — a tickle of electronics and heavy honk of a brass section enhances “Country Life,” while an insistent piano that gives way to cheesy synthesizer makes “Hypnotic Winter” sound something like the Cars reinterpreting the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
The distorted guitar is always laid on thick, but it’s a sound that quickly grows thin in the absence of adventurous or even interesting songwriting.
“Sixpack,” “Hypnotic Mind”