Courtney Taylor-Taylor, front man of over-the-top stylistic emulators/copycats the Dandy Warhols, declared in a late nineties interview, “We wear our influences on our fucking sleeves”, spelling the relevancy death knell for a band who had seemingly used up all their creative goodwill with a hip, fickle listener base that demanded the mystique of superhuman artistry from its indie rock pillars. Nearly every band since the time of the Dandies has opted for writing music whose derivative creative foundation is overshadowed only by its writer’s desperate claims of originality – whether it be a unique mix of disparate styles or a reference to an obscure genre; not necessarily a good or bad phenomenon, but a reality nonetheless.
However, it was only a matter of time before another band came along that was neither ashamed of pure imitation nor afraid of hiding it. Enter mid-nineties surf/fuzz/punk throwback duo JEFF the Brotherhood, who – after 2009’s Heavy Days, featuring an album cover that may be as much a nod to Weezer’s video for “Buddy Holly” as it is to Happy Days itself – has returned with We Are The Champions, an in your face reference to the Queen song of the same name. With this most recent LP, the two real life brothers from Nashville, TN continue their surf-influenced, lo-fi, two-channel garage rock tendencies on “Bummer”, while further stripping down their production to create a blunt, cassette-quality vibe (see “Diamond Way”).
Aside from Champions’ stylistic roots, the record seems to possess an air equal parts facetious feel-good soundtrack and humble homage. When the band isn’t unabashedly delving into psychedelic raga rock on “Health and Strength”, they’re sincerely spitting out a chorus lifted straight from Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle” on “Mellow Out” with the kind of genuine optimism that really gets this writer going. As on the band’s earlier work, laid over every track is a vocal melodicism owing an infinite debt to Rivers Cuomo.
The audible influences at work on We Are The Champions are as nuanced as they are obvious, but when a band wears its influences on its fucking sleeve this well, I’m inclined to write off bands that attempt to shroud their foundations and claim “originality” as nothing more than insincere charlatans.