By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Gentleman Auction House is still flying high after the release of its debut full-length, and garage-rockers the Gentleman Callers broke up and morphed into the Blind Eyes, so that leaves room for the Makeshift Gentlemen to fill that crucial "Gentleman"-based band name gap that keeps this town's music scene afloat. The Makeshift Gentlemen sound nothing like those two similarly named bands, opting for a slick, synth-heavy version of emo that is long on theatrics: To wit: Casanova begins with a 30-second pipe-organ instrumental reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera before the guitar-shredding and swooping synthesizers of the title track kicks in. Singer and guitarist Joe Swigunksi embodies these songs with the conviction of a theater kid and with more balls than most of his emo peers. Swigunksi even gives T-Pain a run for his money in the auto-tuned "Giant Mechanical Spider," as his voice flanges and oscillates along with the keyboards.
Jake Ferree's keyboards coat every song with big, buzzy glissandos and that two-note playing style Nick Rhodes made famous in Duran Duran. Rick Wakeman it ain't, but it fits the mood and style of these songs. Many of the tracks start from the same base — chugging guitars, lock-step rhythms, fizzy keyboards — though the Makeshift Gentlemen tinker with the formula in interesting and successful ways. "Our Town" takes its electroclash beginnings and builds toward an anthem, with shouted vocals just begging for your raised fists to pump along. "Off the Assembly Line" throws a curveball in the album's second act. Led by a single acoustic guitar and two voices, the song deals with many of Casanova's same themes of our automaton-like existence, but the stripped-down nature gives it a needed shot of humanity. (If the band has any sense, they'll pair the song with a cover of Extreme's "More Than Words" in concert.) Either way, the Makeshift Gentlemen mixes hooks and memorable (if often absurd) lyrics along with kinetic energy — the songs never linger too long and always have somewhere to go, if not always something to say.
9 p.m. Saturday, August 16. Bluebird, 2706 Olive Street. $7 21-plus, $10 under 21. No phone. www.bluebirdstl.com. Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o The Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.