By Lisa Parisi
The Gentleman has dropped “his men” and in turn lost a dash of that powerful punch that pierced his first release in search for a gentler, more introspective edge. Bordering on a bout of redundancy at times, songs dangerously fiddle with indistinguishably blending together in a somewhat over-produced bundle. Amid moments of lag, there are temptations to skip to the next song on his Leaving Atlanta, the sophomore release from Douchemaster. The vocal tonality, lyrical sentimentality, and heartfelt sweetness do not vary from the stronger first release, but these are not where the weakness lay. These paragons are still evident and Jesse is halfway there in this release; rather the estrangement rests in a missing component that renders the magic brew that is the music somewhat insipid.
Hear me out, I’m not looking to the Carbonas and expecting to hear “Frothing at the Mouth” under the moniker of the Gentleman. Nor am I using the familiarity of the first album as a crutch, or thumping the new personal, melancholy slant—these are the strengths of Gentleman Jesse’s work. Rather, this release needs two things: a bucket of unpolished goop dropped on it and a wiping away of the murk of over-production—wax on, wax off. There is a distance between the product and the heart; the lyrics are heartfelt, but the music and its emotional fervor get lost beneath the veneer. Nothing wrong with cleaning up your craft and experimenting, but too much tweaking can, and at times does, fall flat.
I’m not saying that Leaving Atlanta should disappear into oblivion or be melted down into record bowls for your coffee table (this trend is blasphemy by the way); there are umpteen moments that save the album, such as the catchy intro for “What Did I Do”. The chorus of “You Give Me Shivers” possesses that rock and roll tinge and packs an energy that jolts—but then the tune trails ever-so-slightly into nettlesome pop in the bridge; even in the guitar solo, this ditty seems slightly removed. “Frostbite” gets us back to the magical allure that oozed from the seams of the first release; the turbulence in this tune wipes away that veneer. “Word Gets Around” is dance-y and catchy in that powerful pop way that you can expect from the Gentleman. By the latter end of the album, you have overcome the initial slump; “I’m Lonely” kicks off with a thumping “hey!” and the chorus features a subtle twang that will get those toes tapping. Then there are moments in “Take it Easy on Me” and the lagging “Careful What You Wish For” that border on the mawkishly saccharine rather than the gentle, melancholy, or sweet.
It’s onerous to follow an acclaimed first release; it’s the curse of well-deserved success. Gentleman Jesse has been knocked down and rightfully picked himself back up. This isn’t about kicking anyone; it’s just a ponderous search for that missing aural component that the keynote tracks possess and the others do not. I don’t want good guys to finish last. I really am “Rooting for the Underdog”.