Well now, here is something! While the rest of the world is busy learning the steampunk aesthetic, the Unextraodinary Gentlemen stand out as one of the few bands not content to merely dress in worn-out Victorian garb, but actually make a sound of things.
5 Tales From God-Only-Knows starts off slowly but surely, with triangle strikes and travelling bass on Black Iron Road. It gradually introduces violin, keys, and Malcom Shreeck’s full-bodied vocals. We are immediately transformed to a melancholy, haunting world of Victoriana-dipped technology. Locomotives, pox, and of course, black iron all make lyrical appearances, and tell us that this is not going to be another typical album in new outfits.
Next, Mr. Soot’s Little Black Book gets rolling with Shreeck shouting “gather round, gather round!” although we are already quite obliged to. The tempo picks up, while the lyricism remains nostalgic and the musical elements stay intact. No where else will you hear stories of old-time prostitution described with words like “strumpet,” or “trollops,” but I believe the Unextrodinary Gentlemen wouldn’t have it any other way. Open Arms, Empty Air introduces more synths and conjures images of airships. Airships, of course, are a quintessential steampunk theme, but indeed a welcome one here.
By the time we get to the slinky, dance-y Skeleton Comes to Town, we begin to appreciate the real excitement that is behind steampunk right now. The Unextrordinary Gentlemen are not merely rehashing familiar fantasies, but creating entirely new ones. Creativity, at last! Harpischord, violin, and swing-inspired drumming is not what you may first think of when you think goth/deathrock, but that’s exactly the point.
While the album ends with the much more danceable Ants Under Glass, dancing is still clearly not the obsession, and the song retains its artistic edge. 5 Tales From God-Only-Knows tips the iceberg that is steampunk music, and is as unique as it is accessible. If you have looked down your nose at steampunk in the past, I suggest you don a top hat and spectacles and learn to enjoy the view. Then you should pick up this delightful little treat and get ready for what is next – if this is the beginning, we should all be so lucky as to see it through to the end.
Note: You can catch the Unextraordinary Gentlemen alongside musical steampunk pioneer Vernian Process at this year’s Eccentrik Festival. The entire lineup is quite spectacular, and I suggest you check it out.No comments
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