Weezer fans have complained for years about the band’s turn from the confluence of skater punk, crotch-thrusting metal, and malt-shop power-pop that defined its mid-’90s prime. But brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall of Nashville’s JEFF The Brotherhood don’t merely pine for “The Blue Album” on We Are The Champions; they’ve sidestepped Rivers Cuomo and created the album he’s no longer interested in making. While Champions at times explicitly apes Weezer—the Orralls should be grateful that the “whoa-oo-whoa-oo-oh’s” on “Bummer” aren’t trademarked—it’s more of a spiritual tribute than anything else, with the same sad-eyed smirkiness that made slackerdom seem vaguely heroic back when Winona Ryder was still a sex symbol.
Which is another way of saying that Champions is a grunge-pop record through and through. “Diamond Way” buries a watery riff nicked from “Come As You Are” in waves of sonic crunch just like a million Better Than Ezras and Third Eye Blinds did back in the day, and “Ripper” piles on the doom-laden Iron Maiden guitar heroics through the sludgy lens of Smashing Pumpkins. Champions also has plenty of half-ironic, half-affectionate references to schlocky oldies radio, like the sloppiest sitar lick since B.J. Thomas’ “Hooked On A Feeling,” which graces the insolent “Stay Up Late,” and the burnout’s rewrite of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” that is “Wastoid Girl.” Champions’ appeal clearly isn’t its originality, but its songwriting; on every track, JEFF The Brotherhood enters briskly, states its piece concisely, and gets the hell out before the rush wears off.