In February of this year, Nashville duo JEFF the Brotherhood made a big announcement on their website: “We are SO FUCKING PLEASED to announce that we have been DROPPED from the clutches of the demented vulture that is Warner Bros! We feel as though a heavy weight has been lifted from our shoulders, and could not be more excited.”
Wasted on the Dream, the band’s eighth studio album, was supposed to be their big major label hit, but after massive delays and mismanagement, it had ended up in the Warner Bros. dust bin and the brothers Orrall were left to release the record on their own label, Infinity Cat. Yet, following three releases that grew in potential in Heavy Days, We Are the Champions, and Hypnotic Nights, the cocky alt rock leanings of Wasted on the Dream felt like a step backward: too slick, too shiny. For a band of scuzzy stoners, it sounded almost disingenuously polished. While many listeners liked the newly expansive sound, the rest of us were wondering where the band, who had now filled out their ranks on tour with a second guitarist and bassist, would be headed next — and, to be completely honest, if we even really cared.
O we of little faith.
Global Chakra Rhythms is everything that Wasted on the Dream is not. The duo who, on earlier albums, had always flirted with the ideas of droning stoner rock before flipping back to catchy garage punk anthems, finally lets loose and gives in to their baser desires. Global Chakra Rhythms is the realization of the version of JEFF the Brotherhood that was always hanging around in moments like the intro to “Hey Friend”: too stoned to remember the poppy hooks, falling into the groove and letting it ride out until it’s time to spark up the bowl again.
The title track kicks the album off with swirling carnival organ before diving into full Krautrock cruiser mode with distorted kickbacks on Jamin’s drums. Jake’s voice is piped in from another world, blurry and far away. Then comes saxophone. When the band started experimenting with more instruments during the recording of the Dan Auerbach-produced Hypnotic Nights, they ran the risk of thinning out their sound. The White Stripes always suffered live because of Jack White’s studio experimentation, unable to faithfully reproduce the sounds and multi-tracked density on the road. But now it’s plain to see where JEFF the Brotherhood were headed.
For all the frustrations the band and their fans went through with Wasted on the Dream, the record was something of a chrysalis. Now, freed of responsibilities, timelines, delays, and expectations, this is like a brand new band. You can almost hear songs like “Solstice Canyon” breaking free, like watching a butterfly escape the restraints of its old life on the ground in glorious slow motion.
The long, wailing notes of the saxophone, the twittering of reversed guitar lines — it’s all held together with the unending drum beat that has marched its way through psychedelic music for the past 40 years. That’s where the Orralls are taking their cues from now. With this new album there will be no comparisons to Weezer, Ty Segall, or even their friends Diarrhea Planet. This is the realm of Can and Amon Düül II, or, more recently, Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo. Even the name of the album belies the inspiration, with tracks like “Liquid Onyx” and “Food and Wine Festival” touching on the vaguely Eastern grooves that informed their psychedelic forebears, before blasting off into space where digitized noise, broken distortion, and squealing feedback overwhelm the senses. There are catchy riffs and beautiful vocals on this record, sure, but there are no hooks, no easy entry points for fans of “Sixpack” and “Country Life”. This isn’t beer music, it’s weed music, meant to be listened to in the dark, preferably with the crackle and hiss of vinyl. Hell, the now-sold out 2-LP preorder from Infinity Cat even came with incense sticks, a gold-dipped candle, and tea.
That isn’t to say the album is flawless. There are questionable decisions, like plopping the dub experimentation that is “Pringle Variations” right after the album opener, undoing the record’s fantastic momentum just as it’s beginning. And while many of the songs take their time getting where they’re going, building up sound by sound, instrument by instrument, the lengthy piano number “Chilled to Bones” never really goes anywhere, opting instead to cut back and let a lecherous sax solo drive for more than two full minutes before quietly petering out.
But every band has growing pains, and with Global Chakra Rhythms, JEFF the Brotherhood is becoming something more than they were. Calling on their friends and neighbors in The Dead Weather, Bully, Heavy Cream, Music Band, and more, Jake and Jamin have reached new heights with this record, which is easily their best if you’re willing to go along for the ride. Consider my ticket punched.
Essential Tracks: “Global Chakra Rhythms”, “Solstice Canyon”