Solid new albums by JEFF the Brotherhood and Turbo Fruits show strength, growth and more strength 

For some time there have been two JEFF the Brotherhoods: the one that whips the house-show kids into a pogo-jumping supercollider, and the one that appears on their albums. Up to this point, the latter hasn't always been a terribly convincing substitute for the former. Not that the records are bad—far from it—just that they've never quite captured the chest-churning turbulence of the band's live performances. Their latest, Heavy Days, doesn't quite do that either, but for the first time in the band's catalog it doesn't really matter.

That's because the latest batch of songs translate better to the album format than any of their predecessors. Not that the shouts and calls of previous records weren't engaging, but where earlier albums felt more like souvenirs—"Remember how fun the show was?" they seemed to say—Heavy Days stands much more solidly on its own merits. Perhaps most significantly, there are real honest-to-goodness melodies—catchy ones, even—and the singing is more assured and more pronounced. The infectious "Bone Jam" rides a falsetto chorus like a ray of turbocharged sunshine through chugging guitar, while the "The Tropics" puts the "power" back in power ballad. Don't get the wrong idea, though—there are still gobs of thick, distorted guitar, and Sabbath-y riffs abound. (There are three songs with the word "heavy" in the title.)

Most gratifyingly, the brother duo's energy is more palpable on record than ever, and the studio trickery is both playful—a dramatic sweep of piano keys in a song with no trace of piano elsewhere, for instance—and effective, making for an album that shows the Brotherhood growing in all the right ways without losing any of the raw charm that has gotten them this far. STEVE HARUCH

Echo Kid

Echo Kid is the latest milestone on Jonas Stein's winding path—a path that began with a dance with stardom as the guitarist for wildly beloved kiddie-punk sensations Be Your Own Pet. Since then, his pet project Turbo Fruits has switched both its record label and its rhythm section—two times, in fact for the rhythm section. Nevertheless, Stein has found his comfort zone as an ostensibly effortless frontman.

Echo Kid is undeniably more evolved than Turbo Fruits' 2007 self-titled stoner-punk release. While lyrics still lack what you might call existential depth, making the subject matter of his songs more than simple, listless musings on youthful matters of the heart and general wildness would be a misstep. These songs are all about Stein's nimble, blues-punk noodling and gutsy howl laid over a sturdy rhythmic backbone. That said, Echo Kid still manages to transcend its glam and proto-punk influences with a dose of post-millennial irreverence and vivacity.

While songs like "On the Road" and the aptly titled "Mama's Mad Cos I Fried My Brain" are saturated with sloppy indifference, Stein's agile, surf-influenced playing betrays a concerted effort—this guy has spent more than a few hours practicing and writing. Sure, Echo Kid retains the same sort of natural ease reminiscent of the guys who are no doubt on Stein's short list of heroes (Marc Bolan, Lou Reed, David Bowie, The MC5's Wayne Kramer), but these aren't throwaway licks. They're searing, bluesy runs found somewhere between the realms of psychedelia and punk rock, and their urgency maintains the pace of the entire record.

More than anything else, Echo Kid is an album that represents the maturation of a young songwriter with a vast cache of notable influences. What started as a goofy house-show punk band with songs about getting stoned has turned into the primary outlet of a dude who can write one hell of a catchy riff and deliver it with style. Plus, Stein can now write lyrics not only about the process of getting baked, but also of the consequences thereof. Our little stoner's growing up. D. PATRICK RODGERS


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