Gentleman Auction House – The Rules Were Handed Down

Gentleman Auction House
The Rules Were Handed Down

Apparently girls do go crazy for a sharp dressed man. Judging from the latest crop of one hit wonders on your alternative and rock stations dress shirts, vests, and ties seem to be all the rage these days. Also popular is the big musical collective, cramming as many members as possible onto an album and into a van. Gentleman Auction House has combined the two to disguise the fact they haven’t a sound of their own.

Their debut EP And The Rules Were Handed Down opens with the title track, listed at only 3 and a half minutes, with an unremarkable melody that seems to drag the song on 3 times past that length. From there it’s on to sounding like a bus crash occurred on the interstate somewhere between Omaha and Athens, GA. The quavering vocals of Conor Oberst are in effect throughout, most apparent on “A Hospital Or Heaven” which also features similar lyrics of desperation and despair. It’s pretty annoying when Oberst does it and it’s even more so here. Rock and roll takes a confidence and by singing like you’re on the verge of tears is does not exude that confidence. No one in rock and roll is, or should be, that precious.

And there’s the “everything including the kitchen sink” instrumentation as well. The more the merrier. But unfortunately not everything is easily heard. For all the listed players & instruments, including “velcro,” (and you thought the drummers never got laid) the only thing you remember is the guitar and those shaky voices.

But maybe Gentleman Auction House isn’t striving for rock and roll. So what then could they be striving for? From the opening banjo of the ramshackle “Our Angry Town Runs Them Out” (complete with kazoo solo) you’re expecting to hear singer Eric Enger rasp and growl like Tom Waits. Even at only 6 songs the album is sequenced poorly. It’s difficult to get into an album that leaves you more disoriented than invigorated.

The kids in the Auction House do get an E for effort though. The artwork and packaging is nice and they clearly abide by the DIY ethic; it’s the band or family members in charge of press, tours, etc. And they’ve seen the gap between Arcade Fire releases and made their move. However it’s a sound that will be easily drowned out if not made their own.