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Comparisons to Steely Dan are a rarity in today’s musical landscape, but this is the unanimous verdict of commentators when it comes to Gideon King and City Blog. New album, ‘Upscale Madhouse’ edges closer to the jazzier side of that connection, with sophisticated harmonies, structures, progressions and a diverse array of instrumentation.
The thematic heart of ‘Upscale Madness’ is a profound love of New York in all its eccentricities, flaws, and multiplicity of characters. Tracks like ‘Straight to Hell’, ‘So Evolved’, and most of all, ‘Fake it on Facebook’ embody this aspect best: “New York is a dirty place even though the streets have been slightly cleaned up since I was a kid – everybody tripping on their own motivations and instincts,” says King.
“The CD was loosely inspired by a few New York tales. The tune ‘Fake It On Facebook’, for example, is kinda based on this woman who hitched up with a wealthy guy who was 5,243 years her senior. The whole thing was sort of funny but desperate on a multitude of levels. People photoshop their lives on Facebook with great deliberation, but they are still animals in their natural habitat. It is what it is.”
Healthy dollops of improvisation colour and buffer tunes across the record. ‘Love You Love You Love You’ features trade-off solos between the gifted individuals that Gideon King hand-picked for this record. The ripping electric leads give way to ten-finger tap dancing on the piano – the musicianship on display is supreme.
The sublime soloing probably peaks with ‘Gun to my Head’. Not a note feels out of place – indicative of a knowledgeable, balanced player with an intuitive feel for harmony as opposed to drag racing across the frets.
Overall, it’s a more challenging and complex listen than your average release. This is a studied collection of musicians with a detailed understanding of jazz in its many dimensions. The pop-infusion certainly makes it mainstream-accessible, but there’s no watering down of scope or ambition (no different to Steely Dan) – the blend is natural and destined to attract audiences niche and general.