For a time, every indie band had a cellist. Their moody sawing didn’t always fit the music, but it sure added a whiff of high art to the most naive material. Pale Young Gentlemen have a cello player (she’s a pale young woman, not a gent), but their music requires one — just as it requires cabaret-style piano, an exaggeratedly fey vocalist and beats drawn from 19th-century dancehalls and Eastern European folk music. Imagine Jacques Brel dancing with Bartok and Freddie Mercury, and you’ll have some idea of how the delightfully arch “Saturday Night,” “Fraulein” and “My Light, Maria” come off. Singer/keyboardist Mike Reisenauer adds drama to every track, punctuating his romantic evocations of young fellows undercut by unrequited love, sad-sack workers in search of a single white night of relief, and young gallants on the make with histrionic stage whispers and extended sighs. And his fellow players are never thrown by his flourishes.
To be sure, the Pale Young Gentlemen’s mix of 19th-century ennui and 21st-century indie-pop isn’t for everyone, but it’s very accomplished. In fact, one album into their career, the Pale Young Gentlemen have smoked most of the pop-rock acts working in Madison today.
-Tom Laskin, Isthmus