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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Gentleman Auction House
Alphabet Graveyard
Emergency Umbrella

Rating: 6.9/10 ?


September 1, 2008
As anyone who has lived in the St. Louis metro area for any extended period knows, the city needs a kick in the pants when it comes to producing good rock music. Sure, the Gateway City and vicinity has produced phenomenal soul, jazz and rap performers (Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, Nelly, et cetera), but when it comes to rock/alternative/indie bands, the big-name acts which have surfaced over the years have been noticeably less comparable in overall talent: Gravity Kills, The Urge, Fragile Porcelain Mice... things have been so bad that St. Louisans have gone so far as to adopt the Christian band Jars of Clay, who are from a small town in Illinois some 45 miles away. Altogether, a less-than-impressive list of indie culprits have risen from the area and, try as they might, the city just hasn't been able to produce decent rock bands. Gentleman Auction House (GAH) enters the fray as a progressive band looking to carve their niche not only in the STL scene, but on the national landscape as well. The group of seven is lead by Eric Enger (vocals, guitar), and accompanied by Michael Tomko (guitar, xylophone, percussion), Steve Kozel (keys, vocals, trumpet, guitar), Kiley Lewis (keys, vocals, flute), Eric Herbst (bass), Ryan Adams (full kit), and Stephen Tomko (half kit, percussion).

Gentleman Auction House has made a few gentle waves since their inception in 2005, but these have almost exclusively been ripples within the local independent media; some have (optimistically) compared the ensemble to Canadian wundergruppe Arcade Fire, and others have predicted that they would not be a "St. Louis secret for long." While waiting for their big break to fall from the sky, the group has toured sporadically for the past few years, honing their live shows and searching for a distinctive sound. The band has utilized its down time to record Book of Matches, an EP released in May, and this new full-length album, Alphabet Graveyard.

The album opens with a pseudo title-track, "ABCDEFGraveyard," a song that makes swinging threats but fails to land many punches, and is more of a sing-along than anything (complete with hands clapping and feet stomping). "ABCDEFGraveyard" sounds like an unfortunate cross-between Michael Jackson and Good Charlotte (or Sum 41) and, although catchy, seems immature and lacking generosity at times. These characteristics ring true for a number of other tracks on the disc as well, key offenders being "24th," "I Sleep in a Bed of Scissor Arms," "New Moon," and "You and Me Madly."

The highlight of the album is found in the third spot with "The Book of Matches," a track that admittedly gives a bit of weight to those Arcade Fire references; the opening drums, guitar, and lyrics instantly suck the listener in, and the chorus is lusciously addictive. The funkiest song of the collection is definitely "If I'm the First to Go." This track combines a harmonious drumbeat, fantastic keyboard, tambourines and some cheeky lyrics, which corner the listener into Enger's (sometimes) enthusiastic and (when its natural) engaging voice. "First to Go" in turn leads into, "A Good Son," what is by far the most sophisticated and genuine track on the album, delivering everything the 9th track, "Good Behavior," doesn't. On "A Good Son," Enger portrays true emotion at its finest, and the delivery of this infatuating, gut-wrenching manifesto is the most authentic on the record. If the opening guitar strum doesn't suck you in, the piano and Enger's delicate yet inspiring vocals will. "A Good Son," along with "The Book of Matches," exemplifies the heights Gentleman Auction House can attain when they hit their stride.

One of the most potent aspects of the band's successes on Alphabet Graveyard is the tasteful incorporation of blistering horns, which in most instances seem to appear at just the right time. This is especially true on "We Used to Dream About Bridges," as an eloquent horn portrays a subtle yet sparkling sophistication, a theme the band must harness on future discs.

Gentleman Auction House has shown that they can make exceptional music at times. Those instances of cohesion seem distant, however, and the band could vastly improve by growing up a bit; at times they seem unseasoned and catatonic. Had Alphabet Graveyard been cut down to an EP, centered on some of the selected highlights, it could have caused a minor storm. It doesn't take much to be a bright light in St. Louis. The songs flow nicely when the music is experimental and emotional, and Enger's voice is calm and unforced; yet such moments don't happen as often as they should. However, as Enger reminds us on this album, "we won't stay down long." Hopefully he's right.

Reviewed by Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other reviews by Brian Christopher Jones

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