Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The gentlemen and gentle lady that we have here in Missouri's Gentleman Auction House have made themselves poised to be noteworthy with their newest album, Alphabet Graveyard. They've done it with bells and whistles, something that's usually frowned upon and has been awful-ized by too many people. They use the one whistle - the kind that's dripping with spit and dangling around every gym teacher's neck, standard issue is what we mean - to make everyone within an 8-mile radius stop and listen to what they've built into a wall of sound that serves their bigger stories well, giving them the oversized stairwells and deep, deep backyard pools that are needed for what they're trying to accomplish.
They have paintings up on the walls of this set, where they operate out of, where the cameras and tape are rolling, where the eyes feel as if they follow you through the room as you walk, counting your steps and mentally commenting about how long ago it was that you exercised. They have antique candle fixtures jutting out from the walls, which are absolutely perfect for illuminating the skeletons in the closets as they click open the doors and start walking around on their own, surveying the damage that they've been leaving or just taking notes on how to get more bang for their buck as the sloganeers would have it.
They are the red apples, glistening ripe on the fingertips of tree branches, hanging on for dear life, as well as the infamous little green worm that makes that apple its home, ruining it for anyone with a hungry belly. They've found a way to capture the good and the despair of almost everything, serving up stories about life's difficulties with bows and ribbons on them - making them into the anthemic bursts and brawn with all of their ornate collisions of sound and structure. There is a lot of daring on this record and in the group's general approach as nothing seems to be off-limits. They're willing to just do the unthinkably odd, out of context ideas and make them work resoundingly.
Lead singer Eric Enger makes dysfunction a strong suit, or more so, makes discussing and understanding dysfunction for what it might be, a strong suit. He - with a voice that is reminiscent of Conor Obert's when he's singing lustily about hating the president or loving any kind of booze and Kevin Barnes when he's going through a divorce - takes the reverse tact of those with a Peter Pan syndrome. The growing up, for most of his characters, is a better thing to be doing. There's no arrested development for those going down to the graveyard. Some of these characters want to burn their given names to the ground, to look at the ashes and blackened char and see the greatest gift they've ever been given, to be free from all of the cumbersome hang-ups and hangnails.
There's plenty of rage and atrocity coursing through the words that Enger sings like the cannonballs that appear in the song - being shot from the tops of mountains. It's mostly about persevering and leaving all of the ugliness of a past behind you. A lot of the songs, though slightly-to-heavily different in actual intent, come across as a bigger book. Stuffs that might be autobiographical take on the same feeling as these other latch-key kid and lost boy songs - willful abandon and the desire to be loved unconditionally by the people who are supposed to know exactly what that means, by the people who are supposed to do that better for you than any other people. When the mirror ball lights are spinning across the neighborhood and people are dancing in the broken light as if they were in a club, though with less ecstatic faces, just surveying what they've gotten themselves into and what they want out of the charade, that's when we're there, right where the Gentleman Auction House wants us.
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