Friday, August 3, 2007

Pale Young Gentlemen / "Pale Young Gentlemen"

Thank God for debut albums. The feeling of hearing a new band, a new voice, for the first time can be one of the most exhilirating in music. It's the sound of a group making its first presentation to the public (for the sake of argument, I'm not including EP's. I've only bought one in my life and that's probably as many, if not more than most people). The first possibility is failure, and Lord only knows when your next chance will be... if it even comes at all. It's a difficult situation, but one many bands ultimately face before being reduced to returning to the garage circuit. The second is an inconsistent album, one which shows the highs of outstanding potential, but is mired by poor surrounding tracks and/or too much experimentalism. The third is the rare treat, the debut that seems to get it almost all right. The CD you listen to constantly when you get it; the one you spread to as many friends as you can via word-of-mouth. That gem that makes you simultaneously never tire of it, yet long for it's successor. Friends, "Pale Young Gentlemen" is that album.

It's clear from the first song, "Fraulein," that these guys are special. The song screams theatrics, but not in the annoying over-the-top vein of The Veils or (God forbid) My Chemical Romance. Over rolling piano with a hint of cello, Mike Reisenauer lets everything go in a highly-dramatized accent clearly not from his native Madison, Wisconsin. He doesn't sing songs, so much as tell stories. These stories flow over with warmth, personality, and above all else, fun! The prime example is "Saturday Night." While Mike's brother Matt beats away on the drums and the cello fades in and out, Mike shouts out "Oh Saturday night! Take me in your arms!" It's not so much as a plea, as it is a fantasy and desire for the weekend to come. The background vocals chime in perfectly "Saturday night!" in between his phrases and if only for that three-and-a-half minutes, this band is all you need.
They follow the song with one of the slower, more melancholy ballads: "My Light, Maria." The twin vocal attack (cellist Elizabeth Weamer provides the haunting accompanying vocals) registers poignant before Reisenauer and company reignite the party with "Clap Your Hands." The second half of the album, shows no fall-off in quality, and actually passes even smoother than the first. "A Shadow on the Wall," might be the best track on the entire disc. In just over two minutes, the speaker begins talking of being in a cave with the shadows of his parents on the walls and is able to get outside, enjoy a laugh, and escape their presence over him... with the help of a woman, of course. The soft, minimalist "As a War," the thumping "An Appeal to St. Peter," and the elegant, light-hearted "Single Days" close the album on a very high note.

What lies ahead for Pale Young Gentlemen is anyone's guess. Given this is a self-released album with little media attention, PYG may have to wait for their commercial and critical breakthrough. For now, they may rest satisfied that five unknowns from the Midwest managed to craft the most beautiful album of the year, and what would be the debut of the year in almost any other year. A score is perhaps redundant, seeing as I've praised this album ad infinitum in this review without a single glaring flaw. However, for the sake of consistency...

Rating: 9.1

1 comment:

Kid C said...

All apologies for the lack of posts. I'm in the process of moving into a new home and don't yet have a reliable internet connection, plus Litchfield (where I moved to) has nowhere to buy indie records so I can't buy any without the internet. I should be able to offer up a new review this weekend though! Thanks for your readership!