The Pale Young Gentlemen have stopped making music together, but that does not stop me from acknowledging their previous works. One thing that I like to do is review albums that deserve more credit than they were previously given. Take this band for example. They released two albums in two years and both are very well written and arranged. They are part of a more sophisticated sound, which include elements of classical and pop music (similar to that of Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, or Patrick Watson). If Great Expectations was a rock band instead of a book, then Pale Young Gentlemen would fit the description perfectly. Their albums are both upbeat and sentimental, expressing bittersweet moments, especially in their second release, Black Forest (Tra La La). The Pale Young Gentlemen’s self-titled debut offered brief, poppy tunes, which for me at least can get a little tiring after a while. The second album enhanced their approach, with twelve tracks that literally switch back and forth from fast and upbeat to slow and unsteady. At times, it does feel conflicting within itself, constantly speeding up and slowing down, but that does not mean that the tracks are unsatisfactory, in fact, they are all quite original.
Black Forest will take you on a wonderful journey, beginning with the song, “Coal/Ivory”, a twisting melody with a steady stride. From there, “I Wasn’t Worried” quiets things down for a bit, but “Marvelous Design” starts things up again with a catchy vibe and a sentimental feel. “Golden Face, Morninglight” sounds like it belongs in a musical, while “The Crook of My Good Arm” is easily the most pop-like track in Black Forest. The song, “Kettle Drum (I Left a Note)” has multiple feels to it, starting out sluggish and then progressing to a more steady beat.
The second half of the album enters with “Our History”, a catchy tune with a beautiful melody. “Wedding Bells” is a good song, but it seems to be the weakest point in the album. It is very simple compared to earlier tracks, and it overall feels out of place with the rest of the album. “We Will Meet” is a beautiful song that takes the album a different direction. The real treasure, however, is in the final tracks, “There Is A Place” and “She’s All Mine, I Think”, which in reality define their sound entirely. It also serves as a last “Hurrah” to the album, which I always enjoy.
Throughout the album, Pale Young Gentlemen’s sound grows deeper and deeper to the point where in the very end a lonely chord is strummed on the guitar and Mike Reisenauer is singing, “She’s all mine, I think”, over and over until the music stops. The meaning of the album is up for interpretation, but to me it is a story about making the wrong decisions through the years that cause one to regret everything later on. In the end however, their is hope for a brighter future.
Overall, Black Forest (Tra La La) is beautiful, despite its weak points. Mike Reisenauer’s voice fits perfectly with the music, and everything else is well balanced and well arranged. It is sad to hear that the band is no longer making music, but they will be missed.
The Pale Young Gentlemen consisted of an entire string quartet, along with drums, piano, guitar, and vocals. The members are brothers Mike and Matt Reisenauer, Gwen Miller, Beth Morgan, and Brett Randall. They hail from Madison, WI.