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Published: 2013/07/17
by Brian Robbins

Brother JT
The Svelteness Of Boogietude

Thrill Jockey Records

The first thing that nails you between the ears about The Svelteness of Boogietude (the new album from Brother JT – the alter ego of crazy-assed multi-instrumentalist John Terlesky) is the very-much-intended T. Rex groove that infuses many of the tracks. Heck, there’s even a tune named “T. Rex Blues” here, boys and girls.

But what’s different (and so very-much-so Brother JT) can be summed up by one word found in the very first verse of “T. Rex Blues”: “marvelous.” If the late Marc Bolan of T. Rex was singing the word – imagine it now: “mahhhhvalusss …” – it would come oozing out of the speakers like slightly-psychedelicized boogie cream, all cool-glam gooey-like, half-hushed and funky. When Brother JT sings it, however, much of the above still applies – except there’s a bit of cigarette ash and spilled taco sauce in the goo – along with some weird grit that’ll probably make for some irritation and a lingering burn by the next morning.

Oh, but what a time getting there.

The truth of the matter is, there’s nothing svelte about Brother JT’s boogietude – nothing at all … which is part of his cool and charm. Whereas Marc Bolan was so pretty that you had a hard time imagining him shaving, Brother JT is a poster child for the unshaven. And the beauty of the music on The Svelteness of Boogietude is it’s real and not too shiny to get ahold of.

“Celebrate Your Face” instructs you to do just that (“‘cause it’s the only one you’ve got”), powered by layers of Rexanian guitars swirling and whirling and chasing their tails while handclaps and just-enough-drums-to-be-there hold down the beat and Brother JT tells you what to do and how to do it. You don’t have to work hard for this rock to roll: take-off is easily obtainable.

“Many Man Smoke” lurches unapologetically while tightrope-walking the groove like a junky Buster Keaton, riding out the tune’s racing pulse and ultimate crash-landing – shades of Lou Reed’s “Heroin”. The thick veins of guitar running through “Things I Like” are like a sonic jungle gym for your head; “Be A” has a frigging blast playing with words (“be a gypsy/and be tipsy/be a Nipsey Russell if you please/be a nutter/eat some butter/be a cutter of the cheese”) against a broadly-strummed ready-for-60s-AM-radio rhythm. “Muffin Top” and “Sweatpants” deal with the obvious, laying it all out there openly and honestly – easy access, wiggle room and all. “Gliding” does just that (love Rachel Lamboin’s guest violin); so does “Green Curtain”, but there’s something lurking in the background that never quite shows itself; and “Somebody Down There” lets the vocals come out into the light a wee bit while the guitars and keys burrow a little deeper into the dark, funky place behind Brother JT’s couch.

“Flotsam And Jetsam” is the perfect goodbye: a happy/goofy/carefree tune that could have come right out of a Broadway production except for the twisted lyrics and the wild-eyed sax/guitar wrestling match tumbling through, culminating in one last squawkfest to close things out. “Amen, amen …” intones Brother JT as the feathers float slowly to the floor, sounding like a man who could use a drink.

With The Svelteness of Boogietude Brother JT has laid down a masterpiece of glam for the unglamorous; rock for the real; cool grooves for each and every one of us that has discovered we managed to get our shirt a couple of buttonholes off halfway through the evening.

Forget about it: this is a dose of instant cool in an effed-up world.

*****

Brian Robbins sometimes hangs out in the dark place behind the couch over at www.brian-robbins.com

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