Retro-lovin' duo parties like it's 1959 on their charming, clever fifth album.
As commitment to a musical bit goes, the Two Man Gentlemen Band fall somewhere between the White Stripes' we-are-too-siblings and fixed color scheme and the Residents' 38-year reign of anonymity. Fortunately, the two men in question -- tenor guitarist Andy Bean and string bassist Fuller Condon -- have the charm and skills to pull off their offbeat shtick (over the course of five albums, no less): pretending the calendar never moved past the pre-rock-'n'-roll 1940s and '50s. So yeah, it's a helluva gimmick, but Two at a Time proves Bean and Condon are equally serious about the music of the era -- jump blues, jazz, exotica (to say nothing of the execution: Bean plays a 1961 four-string electric tenor guitar through a vintage 1937 Gibson amp, and the whole thing was recorded live to tape using '40s/'50s-era microphones and equipment) -– and having fun with the genres. The topics are tried and true: drinking (the bartender request "Please Don't Water It Down"), drinking with girls in bikinis ("Panama City Beach") and drinking because a girl is gone (the closing title track). There's also the silly relationship metaphor "Cheese and Crackers" and the maybe-parody of Eisenhower-era attitudes towards exotic women, "Tikka Masala" ("floating with you down the River Ganges"... riiiiight). Two obscure cover tunes -- Lil' Hardin Armstrong's "Let's Get Happy Together" and Jack Guthrie's "Shut That Gate" -- fit nicely with the band's sprightly originals. Charming, funny, snappy (no tune cracks the three-minute mark) and far more than merely a novelty act, the Two Man Gentleman Band have just soundtracked your next cocktail party.