monoblogue music: “Upscale Madhouse” by Gideon King and City Blog

Another followup from a monoblogue music alumni, this forthcoming release is a mature effort that mixes well the appeal of adult contemporary with the styling of modern jazz. Perhaps that was apparent early on, when about about a minute in it was asked, “Call me a taxi/’Cause I’m going Straight to Hell.” There’s just something about singing about taxis that evokes a certain image with me, despite the fact the song quickly moves onto other territory and features some nice female harmony.

On the other hand, the acoustic open to title track (and soon-to-be single) Upscale Madhouse alluded to me a bygone rock era, one where the emotion was apparent in the manner of singing. The world-weary sound made a lot of singers rich, and there’s good reason to think City Blog can mine that field. Yet if they wanted to work in that realm, Broken and Beautiful may have been the better single. Another throwback that may have worked is the dreamy, atmospheric Love You Love You Love You – a song that features a riff that could have been a Steely Dan outtake.

As it is, the single selected is the funky Fake It On Facebook. (Don’t tell Mark Zuckerberg, or he’ll claim royalties.) They don’t fake the tasty guitar work on that one, either, although the synth doesn’t do as much for me. It features some of the best examples of the sharp lyrical content City Blog sings. Social media also gets its due on the later song God, I’m So Alone.

The second half of the release opens with the acoustic intro to a song which doesn’t fit the title – Gun To My Head. After that minute or so prelude, City Blog gets back to their normal fusion sound in a lyrically well-crafted song about choices: East Coast or West Coast? It slides into a mellow, comparatively short duet called For Our Own Sake that goes down like smooth whiskey.

Conversely, it’s a little bit jarring for the female vocalist to use some of the language used on So Evolved. I’m not sure why it was necessary, and detracts from the album. The world has enough rap with myriad variations of the f-word for it to intrude on the safer haven of jazz. (A Twitter check of the band’s site says Carolyn Leonhart is the band’s female vocalist, so I’ll go with that. A pretty voice sullied by coarse language.) And if that wasn’t bad enough, the album closes with a senseless 55-second snippet called Look Ma, No Hands. I just saw no point in it; they could have left it off and the album would have been 47 minutes instead of 48.

Gideon has an intriguing release schedule for this one: Fake It On Facebook was the lead single that came out June 22, to be followed by the title track next Friday. (A Friday the 13th release? Hmmmm….I suppose City Blog isn’t superstitious.) The full album (for which the photo above may or may not be the cover, but I’m rooting for it to be) drops August 10. Since this review is timed prior to the release I can’t really tell you to listen for yourself (aside from the single I link to above on the dreaded Spotify) but to my critical ear as a listener I would say that if you like the jazz-rock fusion genre and don’t mind some coarse language, you’ll probably enjoy this one. But it doesn’t break any new ground.