Little Brother Eli
The Animal Farm 2015
When we last heard from Little Brother Eli, they were launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund their next project. Ultimately, the boys were successful in garnering the support they needed to produce their newest self-titled effort. The three songs on the EP are significantly heavier and more combative than the material on their previous release. The concerted effort to incorporate dirty blues, big rock hooks, and often rap-like vocal phrasing has given a more cohesive sound to a band that already possessed excellent songwriting and musicianship.
The title track is clearly the radio single. It’s the anthem you crank in the car to offer a strident retort to all the people who have been fucking with you lately. Singer Alex Grew exudes the ardent bravado of a hip-hop emcee as he struts through his vocal lines with a barrage of soulful bellows and roars. Drummer Benji Page morphs his drum kit into a loom of percussion, weaving threads of funk and rock into a tapestry of dank grooves and resounding rhythmic hits. Guitarists Adam Stowe and Linus Taylor complement each other with fretted guitar and slide licks, conjuring images of a Led Zeppelin with twin Jimmy Pages. The mighty Zeppelin’s influence is palpable, as the main riff is implicative of “Bring it on Home” from 1969’s Led Zeppelin II.
The ominous opening riffs of “Dreams” set the stage for a frenetic journey into the subconscious, led by Grew’s versatile vocals and alternately sinister and thunderous guitar parts. The influence of hip-hop and Jack White on Grew’s phrasing are most evident on this track; the breakdown is equal parts old school rap and Get Behind Me Satan. The command of dynamics the band demonstrates in their arranging stands out at several points in the song, as instruments drop out at key sections, only to come back in at just the right time to offer exclamation points that provide the knockout punching power needed to propel the song to its finish.
Heavy blues with a gospel tinge are the flavors of the day in “Hanging.” The song begins with acoustic slide guitar, bass drum, hand claps, and a group moan before the full band comes in with devastating force. The song addresses the universality of the blues, unhindered by the origin or ethnicity of the performer. Willie Dixon summed it up best when he said, “The Blues are the true facts of life expressed in words and song, inspiration, feeling, and understanding.” The distorted electric slide riffs that drive the song seem as deeply rooted in the music of Blind Willie Johnson and R.L. Burnside as they are in The Black Keys and The Raconteurs. Alex Grew’s gritty and spirit-drenched howls are at the forefront as he is simultaneously confessor and preacher:
I’m not from Louisiana
And I’ve never seen Tennessee
But that don’t even matter
I’ll still sing about these blues
Hangin’ over me
Grew and bassist Josh Rigal partner together to write the bulk of the material for Little Brother Eli, and they have produced another tight set of songs destined to help the band separate from the mass of unsigned bands clamoring for attention with a formula of equal parts grease, grooves, hooks, and heart. With two EPs under their belt, expectations are raised for a full-length LP in the future. If these last two undertakings are any indication, it’s likely that this songwriting tandem will be able to deliver an LP’s worth of songs that measure up to the likes of “Animal Fair” and “Who Do You.” The EP officially drops today and is available on iTunes.
Preview the EP on Soundcloud: