You gotta hand it to The Heavy Pets. It took some serious nuts to have their debut studio album be a double-disc jam-packed-with-jams effort (2007’s aptly-named Whale), but hey – they pulled it off without coming across as pretentious or too-big-fer-their-surfer-shorts, didn’t they? Uh-huh. And admit it: you found yourself singing along to “Operation of Flight” whether you thought you were too cool to or not, didn’t you? Uh-huh. And the first time you went happily tumbling into the layer-after-layer jam of “Sleep”, you were thinking “Who are these guys?” weren’t you? Uh-huh.

The Heavy Pets apply their confidence in a different way in their self-titled new release. They know they can jam the living dog snot out of a tune when the time’s right – and we know they can too … but for now, we have 12 new songs clocking in at just a whisker over 51 minutes. Keep in mind: nothing is rushed or abbreviated; themes are firmly established and choruses have plenty of opportunity to get their hooks into you. And plenty o’ hooks there be – of all different sorts.

The Pets once again prove they know their way around white-boy reggae (“No More Time”) and Sublime-style rap (“Lazy Anna” and “Girl You Make Me Stupid”, featuring John Popper on lung-rupturing harp) as well as channeling ‘65/‘66 Lennon/McCartney in “How Would I”. But the fun doesn’t stop there, boys and girls: “Grace Blix” cleans Hall & Oats’ clock (one listen and that chorus will be firmly lodged in your brainpan for the rest of the calendar year) and “Osyrus” is nothing but sheer dopey-grinned 80’s cymbal-thrashing pop. Don’t worry – if you’re looking for yank-the-pull-cord and let-that-guitar-crunch moments, there are plenty of those, too. (Don’t be deceived by the name, folks: “Xylophone” is one big six-string tension-and-release.) And when you get to the end of The Heavy Pets, the happy-hippies-‘round-the-campfire vibe (complete with sweet whistling) of “Ichabod’s Train” will have you thinking that maybe the band has found their own “Ripple”.

All in all, The Heavy Pets’ latest release finds those crazy Floridians just plain comfy with who they are. But don’t mistake that comfort for complacency: the band continues to expand their world, hopping over fences and thumbing their noses at borders.

These are free-range Pets.