The 2 Man Gentlemen Band’s Sly, Edgy New Album Is Their Best
Today we stagger from songs about smoking pot to songs about getting drunk – hey, it’s been a long week, and this blog has been fixated on a lot of sad and depressing stuff lately. The 2 Man Gentlemen Band’s new album Two At a Time - streaming at the band’s Bandcamp site - is anything but sad and depressing. Who is the audience for this? Probably the same kind of people who built the oldtimey duo’s fan base as they ascended from the dives of New York to larger venues, a more impressive feat than it may seem considering that what tenor guitarist Andy Bean and bassist Fuller Condon (is that a great name or what? Just think about it for a second) play is pretty quiet music. That’s not to say that it’s mellow, not by a long shot, but they also don’t come blasting at you through Marshall stacks. Their shtick has been the same since the git-go: funny lyrics and an oldtimey sound that moves from country, to blues, to swing and all points in between. If music had ended in 1935, these guys would probably be fine with that. Bean has never played more expertly and soulfully (he really nails that magic sound that grew out of country musicians trying their hand at jazz) ; Condon stays on task, keeping the groove deep in the pocket. These two gentlemen will be playing the album release show on June 13 at 9 at Joe’s Pub and as of today, $12 advance tickets are still available.
It’s a lot edgier, sometimes mean-spirited, than anything they’ve done before, which makes it their funniest and best album. It’s Depression-era music with a sarcastic undercurrent that fits this era’s depression to a T. They open it with a swinging, shuffling cover of the old blues standard Pork Chops, with a nice biting jazz guitar solo straight out of the Wes Montgomery playbook and a tasty break for bass. Please Don’t Water It Down is based in experience: “Sneaking weak-ass beverages might have worked at Applebee’s,” but this guy wants something sweet and fruity. Panama City Beach is a most likely sarcastic tribute to the nastiest of the Florida spring break fratboy hellholes, while Pool Party has the same kind of snide undercurrent. They follow that with Shut That Gate, a post-WWII style country song that’s sort of a cross between San Antonio Rose and Blue Moon of Kentucky.
There’s also the self-explanatory jump blues Let’s Get Happy Together along with a couple of sly hokum numbers, the innuendo-packed shuffle Cheese and Crackers and the considerably darker Two Star Motel. In between is Poolside, a steady walking Hawaiian-tinged swing instrumental. Tikka Masala winkingly chronicles a visit to the taxi driver hangout with the cute girl behind the counter, while the album’s best track, Prescription Drugs is just plain hilarious: it’s Mother’s Little Helper for the Oxycontin age. It only makes sense that they’d follow that one with the title track, a singalong drinking song. There’s also a “secret” track, The Gentlemen’s Blue Drag, which is surprisingly moody: the point might be that these guys are a lot deeper than all those jokey songs might make you think. The production is so fat that you don’t realize that it’s just guitar, bass and vocals unless you think about it. Raise your glass and sing along.