Hypnotic Nights finds Nashville two-piece JEFF the Brotherhood continuing on their journey from the explosive, all-over-the-place fuzz-rock of their early releases toward the friendlier, catchier and more focused material of their Weezer-ific 2011 album, We Are the Champions. And while 2012 JEFF may be indeed poppier than 2009 JEFF, this is still a band with a sonic core that’s defined by their hard-driving live shows, during which Jake Orrall’s thick, crunchy guitars and manic stage presence and his brother Jamin’s ferociously propulsive drumming manifest into some supremely joyous and visceral rock ‘n’ roll. As such, Hypnotic Nights careens through its 11 tracks with a wild, infectious abandon that manages—amazingly—to never lose sight of the hooks and melodies buried underneath all the fat riffs.
Much ado will certainly be made of Dan Auerbach’s production credit on Hypnotic Nights, but there’s very little that connects JEFF with The Black Keys, other than the fact that both duos do a fine job of reconstituting rock ‘n’ roll’s gritty roots into something accessible and warm. In the case of JEFF, it’s the psychedelic hard rock of the late ‘60s infused with a thick strain of bubblegum pop and early, burly punk. There is nothing complex or overly artful about what these two are doing—hell, a track like “Sixpack” has more “ooh ooh ooh”s than it does actual lyrics—but it brims with the same honesty and fire that makes, well, The Black Keys so popular. Sure, there are some moments like the retrograde pop-punk of “Staring at the Wall” and “Hypnotic Mind” or the ill-advised cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” that make one wonder if JEFF isn’t playing things too straightforwardly, but as a summery rock confection, Hypnotic Nights more than hits the spot.