PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Gentlemen: Brass City Band

Stephen Haag

Meat-and-potatoes rock and roll may not win many awards, but the Gentlemen should win lots of friends with their solid third record.


The Gentlemen

Brass City Band

Label: The Gentlemen's Recording Company
US Release Date: 2005-02-27
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

As I write this review in late December, year-end best-of lists are popping up online and in print, full of cutting-edge artists (Animal Collective, Devendra Banhart, Kanye West) who are (justifiably) hailed for their musical adventurism. But where's the love for bands that play solid music without trying to re-invent the wheel? I'm here to offer an appreciation of one of those of those solid, dependable rock 'n' roll bands that gets overlooked come the end of the year -- Boston's the Gentlemen.

That the band -- Mike Gent (vocals, guitars and keyboards), Lucky Jackson (vocals and guitar), Ed Valauskas (vocals and bass), and Pete Caldes (drums) -- opened for the Rolling Stones this past year on their mega-tour tells you a lot of what you need to know about the Gentlemen's sound (never mind that everyone from Queens of the Stone Age to Beck to the Neville Brothers have opened for the Stones at one point or another). It's also helpful to note that Gent's other band, the Figgs, backed Graham Parker on Parker's best album in ages, 2005's Songs of No Consequence. Basically, the Gentlemen fall somewhere between the Stones' crunching blues riffs and Parker's smart-ass attitude and roots rock leanings, and the band's most recent end result, Brass City Band, is some of the finest AOR of the year.

Admittedly, it's not a sound that often raises critical eyebrows, but it's a sound the band executes well and creates with a real sense of unity and fun. Gent, Jackson, and Valauskas all write and sing their own songs, and no singer/songwriter outshines the other two. These guys are a darn good band, with heavy accent on the word "band".

The Gentlemen do a lot of the little things right. They've mastered braggadocio -- "Do yourself a favor and don't fuck with the Brass City Band!" warns Jackson on the snarling title track, the album's closer (bonus points for closing the album with a bang, not a whimper) -- but they can also convey insecurity. On the bouncy "Three-Minute Marriage Proposal", Valauskas pens some of the album's sharpest lyrics: "Let's get married in Memphis / how's next Halloween? / Cuz I'm just as scared as you / probably more / believe it's true". When's the last time a rock band sung a tune about facing up to a fear of commitment, especially a tune as high-octane as this?

They've also got a bit of a political bent, and Jackson could be a dead ringer, both vocally and lyrically, for the Waco Bros' Dean Schlabowske. "Velvet Rope" describes the line between the haves and the have-nots, while on the dark "Watchdogs", he worries about, "The eyes of the watchdogs / surveying every quotation". Like the Wacos, the Gentlemen position themselves as the voice of the common man... who likes to rock out.

Of course, the common man likes to goof off, too. On the, um, lighter side, there's "100 Stone", a barroom stomper during which Gent paints a picture of a serious overeater: "You eat the waitress / You eat the maitre d' / ... Here comes the crane to crane you away." At the risk of sounding flip, it's the best song about a morbidly obese person since Rockpile's "Knife and Fork". Meanwhile, Valauskas knocks some sense into a buddy who thinks he's got a chance with a woman who's way out of his league on "Hit That". Like any well-rounded gentleman, these Gentlemen can hold court on a wide variety of topics.

I'm all for recognizing and rewarding adventurous musical artists for their innovations, but let's be sure to give a year-end tip o' the cap to the Gentlemen, for reminding listeners that solid, fun, well-crafted rock and roll will never go out of style.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.