Like the Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips before them, Gentleman Auction House have an uncanny knack for constructing an eclectic musical setting rich in detail and mood. The band name alone manages to evoke, for me at least, a weirdly specific sense of time and place: Gilded Age St. Louis, a large wooden town hall hosting an event to auction off kept men to the highest bidder, each one more refined than the next, ready to parade their stately manners during the orgy of post-Victorian era opulence and prosperity that was the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.
Most readers probably won’t understand the previous sentence unless they were force fed Meet Me in St. Louis as a child (quite a digression for the first breath of a concert preview, I know) but I can’t help but become immersed in Gentleman Auction House’s world: a melting pot of of influences that incorporates such diverse musical styles as Americana, dream/baroque pop, freak folk, and dub.
The result is a fully realized and densely layered sound that reveals different attributes after multiple listens. The band’s set up alone could be considered a collective instead of a cohesive musical mind, comprised as a seven piece that features dueling drums, pianos, and vocalists as well as guitars, bass, trumpets, flutes, and an omnichord (whatever the fuck that is). Their last LP, Alphabet Graveyard, was released in June of last year and has more than its share of complexly melodic gems, including the playfully sexual “Call it Casual,” an anthemically throbbing ode to arson in “The Box of Matches,” and reggae infused groover “New Moon.”
The unparalleled sonic variety in these tracks should be more than enough to promise an enduring live show. The energetic video for “The Box of Matches” doesn’t hurt either, making it ruefully apparent that these cats have exuberance and wit in spades. Pittsburgh gets treated yet again to an up and coming national act poised to take their place along side the heavy hitters of the scene, I can’t imagine they would disappoint.