The Brothers Groove’s first disc, 2000’s Clamp It Down, was a funky assault on the reptilian brain. Bassist James Simonson’s kinetic plucking fibrillated the sternum while then-drummer Michael Caskey beat out a subliminal code that induced a zombie-link mantra: “Must dance … Must dance.” Savant keyboardist Chris Codish’s bouncing licks and clever, irreverent braying mainlined the medulla oblongata, the center of involuntary reflex. It’s nigh impossible to hear Clamp It Down — or last year’s cover-heavy live set Layin’ in the Cut — without becoming a booty-shaking bobble-head.
This is all instructive when considering TBG’s second studio release, So Glad You Came, wherein the Bros conspire a decidedly more cerebral seduction. They succeed to impressive extent. Thematically, musically and lyrically, So Glad signals a maturation of stellar musicianship. The party isn’t over — it’s just moved upstairs. Good choice.
Since Clamp It Down, TBG has added guitarist Erik Gustafson to the lineup, and his personality and influence are evident, and good. So Glad is a complex profusion of fusion — funk, blues, jazz, rock, even rap — an alchemic distillation of modern musical culture like little else in the record store.
Codish is light on the keys, choosing to showcase his vocals, which suggest a ragged coupling of Dr. John and Frank Zappa. Aptly, the title cut is the magnum opus, a cathartic jam that seethes with genuine angst. Codish huffs: “You can get out of my house/You can pack up all your stuff/ I don’t want you hangin’ round.” Gustafson’s work here — everything from chunky industrial grind to gooseflesh-inducing whale shrieks — would give Joe Walsh a boner.
Hearing Codish wail, “You’re the best thaaaang to come my way” on “The Best Thing” finds him at the peak of his signature insouciance. The pop-ish “You Got It” comes with a radio-ready organ riff and Gustafson on, yes, electric sitar. The indignantly satirical “Get My Cut” is a pithy send-up of greedy Generation Xers, as in, “I woke up this morning with a business plan.” “Iron Pimp” is a reference to a slot machine, and the tune — replete with otherwise annoying slot chiming — is tart commentary on the allure of gambling, the taxation of ignorance, the myth of something for nothing.
Through it all, the rhythm section of Simonson and Todd Glass skillfully, discreetly, selflessly spin a sturdy web that buttresses all the other moving parts. That’s no small feat. (Glass has since left the combo; Skeeto Valdez now mans the skins.)
With Clamp, TBG blew your doors off. On So Glad, with its softer mix and risky, intricate arrangements, the Bros would rather pick your lock. Either way, they’re coming in.
The Brothers Groove perform Wednesday, Nov. 26 at the Majestic Theatre (4140 Woodward, Detroit) with Bump and Blend. Doors open at 8 p.m. Call 313-833-9700.
Jeremy Voas is the editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].