Jake and Jamin Orrall have spent the last decade trying to convince the world that rock n’ roll isn’t dead. Infinity Cat, the Nashville label they founded in 2002, has been a springboard for a number of garage-y bands like Pujol, Heavy Cream and Natural Child to kick out their jams and bring the methods of record distribution back to a creatively freeing DIY ethos. When they aren’t enabling others, the Orralls pick up their axes as JEFF the Brotherhood, a band that has established itself as an excellent pastiche of the best dumb guitar bands of days past.
Drop them in a time machine to any era of garage bands, and they’d fit right in. Mostly, they sound like the Ramones by way of Dinosaur Jr, a group of punk rats not too self-conscious about ripping a squelching guitar solo or luxuriating in radiator-thick feedback. On We Are The Champions, they blend brash wah-wah theatrics and ripping punk tempos for one of the more satisfying guitar experiences you’ll hear this year. Whether the lush noodling that opens the free love ode “Hey Friend,” the Weezer-esque distortion and “whoa ohs” on “Bummer” or the Jay Reatard freakout of “Cool Out,” We Are The Champions dips across rock styles from Hendrix to Husker Du, like what you’d get from a jam session between multi-generational roadies. The lyricism is basic, mostly about girls and hanging out, and there’s an artless charm to the way the songs put their heads down and plow through. The breezy songwriting is part of why the record never feels staidly derivative like rock revival records often can.
It’s not completely original, and if you’re looking for a band on its own wavelength, there are a plethora of artier and headier groups to fill your headphones. If they sound like the Ramones and Dinosaur Jr., then why not listen to the Ramones or Dinosaur Jr.? The answer is on the stage, where JEFF has carved out a frenetic touring presence over the last few years playing with other riproaring bands like Fucked Up and Pentagram. Given proper volume and space, their fuzzy hooks and manic energy leap out more than they do on this record, which, despite its ebullient catchiness, can run together like a Rock’s Greatest Hits more than a cohesive artistic statement. This record might not tell you how to feel. But JEFF is good at what they do, and We Are The Champions is a perfect summer record, made for day-drinking and porch hanging.