Jeff the Brotherhood – ‘Magick Songs’ review

The Orrall Brothers’ continued bumpy ride takes them on a journey into the unknown

It’s been a bumpy ride for Nashville brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, though there’s a sense they wouldn’t have it any other way. The 30-somethings’ 13th album – yes, you read that correctly – is a collection of chill guitar noodlings, hard-rock bangers and psychedelic freak-outs. In other words: work of band who do whatever they fancy, follow their instincts and don’t over-think the consequences.

Perhaps it’s that kind of attitude that got the affable punks dropped from Warner Music Group back in 2015. It always seemed weird that two such self-starting, staunchly DIY artists (they founded their own record label, Infinity Cat, when they were still teenagers) should cosy up to Bugs Bunny and pals, though they’ve admitted they just wanted the money. When that deal fell apart after one album, they returned to doing it their own way through Infinity Cat.

The Orrall have continued to follow their whims, collecting two new band members along the way. On ‘Magick Songs’, they’ve travelled far from the fun, dumb garage rock that made them a buzz-band with 2009’s ‘Heavy Days’. The likes of ‘Celebration’ and ‘Locator’ see them slow down the rhythm, languid brass arrangements unravelling over moody, atmospheric beats. It’s an esoteric sound that will confuse those who recall them as the goofy dudes that dressed up as Kiss-style rockers in the comedy video for 2011’s chugging, minimalist ‘Mind Ride’. Nearly a decade on, they’re much more mature.

‘Relish’ consists of quiet, bubbling feedback and a foreboding organ line, taking experimentalism to the album’s extreme, while ‘Heavy Journey’ has trippy, dazed guitar creep over bone-shuddering bass. Closer ‘Farewell to the Sun’ is a grunge slog that opens out into an expansive soundscape of distorted chants. It’s sometimes hard work, though ‘Camel Swallowed Whole’ is blissful slacker balladry, ‘The Mother’ bracing, old-school heavy rock.

Of their dalliance with the mainstream, Jake Orrall has said: “If you wanted to do something, you had to make [Warner] feel like it’s their idea or it wasn’t going to happen.” Jeff the Brotherhood weren’t willing to play the game. Sometimes, on ‘Magick Songs’, you may wish they would – there’s a little alienating insularity here, but it’s still inspiring to see the band follow their instincts.