I’m going to level with you right off the mark here. I’m a sucker for anything with the word gentleman, conquistador, rube or Groban. So it’s with great joy that I listened to FOURtyFOUR, the debut album of reggae/dub outfit The Gentleman’s Club.
Formed in 2006, the band have been running around the festival circuit for some years now and so far have released a handful of singles and EPs. Anyway I know what you must be thinking by now. How gentlemanly are these gentlemen? To answer this burning question and more I decided to conduct in-depth research (read: I listened to it on my stereo).
The first thing that struck me on opening track Give It Away was how similar the sound is to UB40’s ‘One in Ten’. I couldn’t tell if this was intentional on the bands part or just lazy reviewing on my part, ‘oh some caucasian men from the north of England doing reggae, they MUST sound like UB40’. Yeah, well it does. But it’s by no means a bad thing. It’s a fun track that showcases the bands chilled party vibe. You can bob. You can nod your head. Follow up track ‘Feels Like’ continues things in relaxed department. What is starting to creep in is the real sense of 90s throwback sound involved. Reading publicity for the band there is some mention of 1980s sensibilities – probably that UB40 connection again. But I’m definitely hearing early 90s dance pianos and drum beats at work here. Weirdly though it’s not grating as it was even back then. It almost makes me feel nostalgic. Christ I’m getting old.
Tracks like ‘Play This’, ‘Slave’ and ‘More Than Words’ all continues the bands overall policy of creating romantic sounds played out to a chilled backdrop that you could pop on at any late evening gathering. Actually ‘More Than Words’ does have some quite haunting synth work and Isley Brothers-esque guitar squeals, it’s quite lovely. Where the album stands out is on tracks ‘Too Little Too Late’, ‘Please Don’t Wait’ and ‘enough’.
With its fun melody, it’s hard not to find on part of your body moving in time with the beat. It’s the most blatantly Madness, 80s sounding track on the album and is destined to be the closer for a lot of gigs to come. ‘Please Don’t Wait’ and ‘Enough’ are relatively darker album closers. Up to this point we’ve been wined and dined with jolly tunes to make us dance or just relax with a glass of red and a round of Trivial Pursuit. These last two tracks bring in more of the groups dance influences. Led by keyboards and drum machines they take on an almost industrial quality, the only real tie-in seems to be Richard Scratchley’s vocals.
So how gentlemanly is it overall? Well I’ve included this pie chart to help clarify matters. Whilst there have been no talk of pipes The Gentleman’s Dub Club’s debut is great for background music. A few songs are a bit too similar in sound and content but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen throughout. And I’m delighted to say that the horns are kept to a minimum.
The album also comes with a rousing live version of ‘Too Little Too Late’ and a haunting live cut of ‘Riot’.