J. Eygenraam’s Brutal Love opens on a lone tambourine, frothing for a tick like an anxious bottle of champagne before its cork pops on the irresistible cascade of guitar trickery that is ‘What’s Hip?’ It’s the kind of song and album opener that people are shushed for talking over, as the volume knob strikes six o’clock and eyes close in appreciation. It’s the only possible way to introduce the world to a songwriter as brave as Eygenraam and his collection of fun and daring songs.
Immediately thereafter lands the helpful and hilarious ‘Don’t Be Sad’, a dead-on New Wave therapy session where we’re told plainly that “pain is lame…” and that “…feeling bad is dumb.”
From that point Eygenraam and his band – whose own contributions are confident and lucid throughout – expand over hills of ripped denim rock and contract through keyholes into intimate places of tenderness and hurt.
It’s when these threads meet and run through the title track that J. is at his most eviscerating. ‘Brutal Love’ bursts through the batwing doors, a staggering, bruised piece, stabbing the organ cathartically on the 8ths, stumbling to regain its footing at the ends of phrases. Our bloodied narrator stomps through the song’s whirling mood, stopping only to ask “was my love not worth more than sex and dirt?” only to satisfy the hanging query when, as a refrain, he confesses: “I’ve been played the fool by brutal love.”
It’s a perfect and poignant climax to a tidy album whose short span you won’t need prompting to spin again and again.