the last supper club
urban gangster

[unsigned; 2008]

rating: 8.433333
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moments before receiving urban gangster in the mail, i happened to break open a fortune cookie, and the fortune read: “more art in your life will make you feel better.” unlike most fortune cookie fortunes, which typically promise wealth, life-giving relationships, and other forms of prosperity, this one actually proved true. however, one could also argue that the fortune was simply a given, a self-evident truth (i.e. “positive thinking will make you feel better”), and ignore the message completely. the point, though, is that the last supper club strikes me as a band that would concede the message. these mercer island natives’ album is chockfull of dylan-inspired verses and lack of choruses (save for “betty moonshine”); the cavalier vocal delivery hints at early marc bolan; the guitar work and chord progressions draw comparisons to classic sixties rock (see: bowie, vu). on a first listen, the message becomes clear: art doesn’t just make this band feel better; no, that would an understatement. without it, they’d be unable to function.

the sound they create, though, is altogether their own. with so many obvious and apparent influences, urban gangster could have easily been driven to sound like another lsd-laden, psychedelic-stream-of-consciousness written four decades too late. but the last supper club have managed to hold their own, and they’ve created a unique sound that is not only listenable, but likeable. the album starts off with the acoustic ballad “shadowless halls,” a song that evokes late night drives, cloudless and full moon nights, and...alki beach. don’t ask me why; the imagery is just there. as the album progresses, the band reveals a more broad range: distorted but pleasant guitar solos, and overall, solid song structures. “betty moonshine” sets itself apart as the catchiest song on the set, especially those moments when the instruments fade, and the last supper club lets its guard down. another catchy track and personal favorite of mine is “fearless heart of danger.”

“tall woman blues” is a more upbeat number with the most poignant lyrics on the album: i’m a failure in life/but i can show you the way it should be. this particular lyric is a complete paradox: it’s obviously a self-deprecating remark, but the band is having too much fun to let it ring true. it’s slightly akin to a band that wins the local battle of the bands, but still believes they aren’t very good – it’s just that the competition was really that lousy. the john mccain of music, if you will. from a mainstream and commercial point of view, the last supper club is a failure. after all, they’re not selling records, they’re not touring, and their sole review is completely fictitious. but, what they’ve done is they’ve shown us the real tragedy, the real failure: that these days, art isn’t valued for art’s sake. instead, it must be rated by pretentious freelancers and anonymous amazon.com half-wits. the real failure is that musicians enjoying themselves and making home recordings can’t get their voices heard without agents, managers, labels, contracts, and corporate backing; meanwhile the general populace is spoonfed the new, interchangeable, prepackaged “indie” rock.

the anecdote? listen to urban gangster. it will make you feel better.

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