Listen & Learn

The Heise Bros.

CTL Records, 2006

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


It’s hard for those of us of a certain age not to recall the classic Saturday Night Live bit about the jam with the almost-obscene name (“With a name like Fluckers, it’s got to be good!”) when reading that the Heise Brothers used to play in a group called Munkey Juice.  No Munkey Juice on this album, though -- just brothers Nelson (the older singing and guitar-playing one) and Robert (the younger bass-playing and background-vocalizing one) giving up 15 tracks of slightly earthy, slightly tricky jam-band-ish folk-rock.

These cuts are earthy in that the arrangements are loose and the production is uncluttered and organic; tricky in the sense that their shambling back-porch fuzziness serves as cover for some fairly probing songwriting.  The album gestated from a song the brothers wrote about the passing of their grandmother (the touching closer “Alma Marie”), and the resulting set touches often on the complexity of relationships with family and friends (“I don’t feel bad if I tell you the truth / And I won’t feel good if I lie to you”).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Brothers’ style reminds me of Ben Kweller sitting in for a set with the Pernice Brothers -- acoustic-based songwriting with quirky electronic accents, dreamy melodies under incisive lyrics, and a manic rawness that belies the artistry of many of the tracks.  A perfect example is the “song” that frames the entire album.  The minute-long fragment “Figure Anything Out” appears in three arrangements -- “Mystic,” “Soft” and “Stomp” -- and in every case the brothers wring something entirely different from its single extended chorus, without ever losing the melodic thread and core of confusion and self-doubt.

The Brothers also profess admiration for the Kinks, and it’s easy to see in the way they attack the rare full-on rock number “For Me,” which finds Nelson unleashing a heartfelt confession/thank you at the mike while Robert keeps things thundering forward with the British Invasion fervor of a modern-day “You Really Got Me.”  There’s a milder strain of the same cheeky classicist rock and roll to be found in “Names” and “Don’t Say Goodbye.”

The album was cut with help from fellow Twin Cities scene veterans including Joshua Stuckey (guitars) and Michael Velasquez (drums), and the music definitely has the feel of old friends getting together in a buddy’s garage and playing their hearts out.  There are missed notes and sloppy changes here and there, but it’s all part of the atmosphere. 

Listen & Learn isn’t going to burn up the charts, but doesn’t feel meant to.  The Brothers themselves have declared this one was for friends and family, and its most appealing aspect is that it has no pretensions of being more than that.  A quality piece of work that’s worth checking out.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of CTL Records, and is used for informational purposes only.