The Tripwire: Jeff The Brotherhood As Champions Of Rock, Unironic Fog Machines


There were a lot of things going on in rock music this week worth writing about. Yuck released a pretty great B-side. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart made a worthwhile album that should make almost no one utter the phrase "indie darlings." LCD Soundsystem had some sort of get together. As I contemplated all this, I stumbled into a Jeff The Brotherhood show in Brooklyn, and all the rest seemed to fade away for the moment.

This show happened to be on the same night as that aforementioned get together LCD was having with a few friends at Madison Square Garden. On the surface, these shows share very little aside from ringleaders that obviously have a great adoration for the full span of rock music that came before them. Sonically, they are strangers. But after reading laments on LCD and their farewell show from everyone from the Times to Pitchfork to Donald Glover, and remembering my own past LCD experience, I realize there's a certain (albeit partially personal) connection to why these two live shows both make for such a captivating experience.

This connection stems from an utter lack of irony. From the outside, this may be hard to believe in regard to either act. Murphy has often served as an observer of the scenes he's weaved in and out of for decades, possessing a biting wit and a Rolodex of hipster quips at-ready while doing so. Brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, who comprise Jeff The Brotherhood, climb on stage donning '70s roadie ensembles and mustaches and employ a fog machine. But you needn't get more than five minutes into either camp's live act to know they no doubt mean it, and goddamn do they go for it on stage.

I think this is more what got me there. I love concerts, but going to around one a week for a couple of years now has given me a slightly over-analytical take on the whole ordeal. As much as I'd love to just be there and experience a show, my head is rummaging through the band's back-catalog and putting it into some context and trying to remember whether Streethawk came out in 2001 or 2002. Believe me, this whole process isn't by choice.

But indie concerts especially, while often fine displays of musicianship and songwriting, can be pretty passive affairs. It almost takes something like an LCD show or a Jeff show that successfully creates an entire atmosphere and fully resides within that world, forcing you to join them there while having one hell of a good time doing it. The main takeaway from nearly every LCD recap I read was simply remembering how much fun a concert can be and how fully immersed in it everyone felt. In some sense, this goes without saying, but it can also be easy to forget. By all means, concerts should be fun.

The thing about Jeff that makes creating this world all the more impressive, as impressive as a show like LCD is (and yes, it really is), it takes countless parts to bring all that together. Jeff is quite literally two dudes on stage, occasionally whispering to each other over the crowd about what comes next.

Their debut full length, Heavy Days, inspired quite a following (including here at the Tripwire) and quite a few spins at my apartment. And while this is by no means a knock, it largely felt like pretty straight-forward garage rock, albeit really enjoyable garage rock. But both their live set and their new effort We Are The Champions paint a much more vivid and varied picture of the duo.

"Cool Out" fits right at home with their last album, fitting about as much balls-to-the-wall rock as two dudes can muster into one track. But then a mellower track like "Health and Strength" may catch you off-guard with the duo's largely overlooked songwriting chops. I've seen little to no hype about this record around the web, possibly because these guys supposedly played 230 shows in the last year. That, combined with their love of blogging photos of potato chips, may really stilt their promotion schedule. But it'd be a real shame if more folks didn't get a chance to hear their record. Imagine how many more fog machines they would bring if ever invited to play Madison Square Garden.

The Tripwire: Jeff The Brotherhood As Champions Of Rock, Unironic Fog Machines