Unextraordinary Gentlemen – 5 Tales from God-Only-Knows EP (2007)
Reviewed by – DJ Delicti of Midnight Calling Ezine

Well now, here is something! While the rest of the world is busy learning the steampunk aesthetic, the Unextraodinary Gentlemen stand out as one of the few bands not content to merely dress in worn-out Victorian garb, but actually make a sound of things.

5 Tales From God-Only-Knows starts off slowly but surely, with triangle strikes and travelling bass on Black Iron Road. It gradually introduces violin, keys, and Malcom Shreeck’s full-bodied vocals. We are immediately transformed to a melancholy, haunting world of Victoriana-dipped technology. Locomotives, pox, and of course, black iron all make lyrical appearances, and tell us that this is not going to be another typical album in new outfits. By the way, I heard that a couple of songs from the album are featured in online video and casino games. The rumor was true, they really are. Heard them out by playing the top rated online casino games at GameNETcafe.

Next, Mr. Soot’s Little Black Book gets rolling with Shreeck shouting “gather round, gather round!” although we are already quite obliged to. The tempo picks up, while the lyricism remains nostalgic and the musical elements stay intact. No where else will you hear stories of old-time prostitution described with words like “strumpet,” or “trollops,” but I believe the Unextrodinary Gentlemen wouldn’t have it any other way. Open Arms, Empty Air introduces more synths and conjures images of airships. Airships, of course, are a quintessential steampunk theme, but indeed a welcome one here.

By the time we get to the slinky, dance-y Skeleton Comes to Town, we begin to appreciate the real excitement that is behind steampunk right now. The Unextrordinary Gentlemen are not merely rehashing familiar fantasies, but creating entirely new ones. Creativity, at last! Harpischord, violin, and swing-inspired drumming is not what you may first think of when you think goth/deathrock, but that’s exactly the point.

While the album ends with the much more danceable Ants Under Glass, dancing is still clearly not the obsession, and the song retains its artistic edge. 5 Tales From God-Only-Knows tips the iceberg that is steampunk music, and is as unique as it is accessible. If you have looked down your nose at steampunk in the past, I suggest you don a top hat and spectacles and learn to enjoy the view. Then you should pick up this delightful little treat and get ready for what is next – if this is the beginning, we should all be so lucky as to see it through to the end.

Unextraordinary Gentlemen – 5 Tales from God-Only-Knows EP (2007)
Reviewed by – Amy Mauk of ReGen Magazine

Misnomer! Unextraordinary Gentlemen spin vivid tales without even breaking a sweat.

On 5 Tales from God-Only-Knows, Unextraordinary Gentlemen have accomplished the extraordinary by crafting the best straight-up goth songs this side of 1982. They nimbly avoid the common goth pitfalls of rambling, mumbling, and 10-minute introductions, while maintaining a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that many goth bands aren’t clever enough to manage. That sense of humor allows us to accept vocalist Malcolm Schreeck’s occasional faux English accent as just another part of the little world the Unextraordinary Gentlemen have built around themselves. The bass lurks like Disintegration-era Cure, the drum machine bringing to mind early Sisters of Mercy, and the violin takes the lead in place of an electric guitar. Vocalist Schreeck is in the role of theatrical storyteller, acting out the songs as stories as well as singing them. The result is an album with one foot planted in old-school goth and the other in Dickensian England.

This is an album of high points. “Black Iron Road” gives us a drum sound similar to a blacksmith hammering out a horseshoe, while J. Frances’ violin sweeps in like a dense fog. “Mr Soot’s Little Black Book” puts Schreeck in the role of garish carnival barker, whose story is punctuated by plucked strings that give a tongue-in-cheek wink to listeners. “Skeleton Goes to Town” is when Unextraordinary Gentlemen break out the harpsichord and lines like “he puts the stab in constabulary.” All of this melodrama comes off as delightful, candlelit theater rather than hand-stapled-to- forehead moping. 5 Tales from God-Only-Knows hits the (coffin) nail on the head, and old-school goths are going to need a cigarette when it’s over.

Unextraordinary Gentlemen – 5 Tales from God-Only-Knows EP (2007)
Reviewed by – SepiaChord

Like the opening of a pulp thriller (or in this case a penny dreadful) let’s skip to the chase: I think that this is a wonderful EP and I’ve been listening to it constantly since it came in the post a few weeks back. If you have any interest in “steampunk” music you should pick this up.

With the first foreboding bass notes of “Black Iron Road” you have a foreshadowing of what your in for. Then when Malcom Schreeck’s vocals kick in you know for sure. The foundation here is goth; sonorous, decadent, gleefully sinister goth.

This makes sense, when it comes to Victorian fashion elements the goths got there first. And the band does look sharp in the back cover photo with their neck-scarves and top hats. (I’m still undecided if J. Frances Pomerantz looks adorable or goofy with her slightly too big hat.) It’s nice that there are now bands bringing a Victorian sensibility to content other than costuming.

Musically this Los Angeles based band mixes goth with synth-pop to very successful results. The keyboards and bass (both by Prof. Richard Mangrove) give each song a solid, full sound. The drum machine, The Indifference Engine (great naming!), is kept restrained so that the listener is never run down by canned beats. Wavering in and out of the songs is Pomerantz’ violin work. The mixture of electric (keyboards, sequencer) and organic (violin, vocals) is a puissant concoction that goes down smoothly and encourages you to come back for more. My only animadversion is that the violin is occasionally a bit too low in the mix.

The Victorian element really comes out in the lyrics. Each song is performed by Malcom Scheerck (who is a character) as a character. “Open Arms, Empty Air” is “as sung by Penny Dreadful” and “Black Iron Road” by “Clive the Barker”. I love the idea of theatre within theatre, characters performed by characters. And each character has an interesting story to tell. The themes are classic: technological oppression (“Black Iron Road”), the undead (“Skeleton Goes to Town) and vice (“Mister Soot’s Little Black Book”). The last track, “Ants Under Glass”, is dedicated to H.G. Wells and is a musing on city crushing war machines: “giants in armor one hundred feet tall”, “do I wander alone in this city of smoke”. It’s my favorite track on the CD, if it had been coupled with “Skeleton Goes to Town” as a 45 record 20 years ago I would have played it until the grooves wore through.

There is a distinct vocabulary in the lyrics: “a horrible pox”, “a strumpet by trade”, “we are the streamline”. It fits the neo-Victorian style nicely but might come across as heavy handed in most genres. That’s the cleverness of having the goth base. Goth encourages, almost requires, a certain verbosity. What might sound incongruous elsewhere here sounds utterly apt.

The Unextraordinary Gentlemen call what they do “Victorian Synth-Punk”. That has a nice ring to it but I find myself describing it as “Future-Pop for Time Travelers”. If the Wells had envisioned a music yet-to-come it could very well have sounded like “5 Tales from God-Only-Knows”.

Unextraordinary Gentlemen – 5 Tales from God-Only-Knows EP (2007)
Reviewed by – Joshua Pfeiffer of

Los Angeles natives “Unextraordinary Gentlemen” are one of the newest modern bands to embrace old world aesthetics, and apply them to late 20th Century musical genres.

In their case it’s the Victorian fantasy genre, which encompasses the tales of Dickens, Kipling, Carol, Wells, Poe, Stoker, Verne, etc., and the music of Post-Punk and New Wave luminaries such as Fad Gadget, Nick Cave, Oingo Boingo, The Cure, Coil, Tom Waits, etc. Their sound is a delicate blend of thrumming drum machines, and droning synths. Throbbing bass compliments of Richard Pilawski. Jennifer Pomerantz playful violin, and the orating of vocalist Eric Schreeck.

“5 Tales From God-Only-Knows” is a collection of yarns concerning the inhabitants of a fictional Victorian universe. The opening track “Black Iron Road” is a slow burning tale of the effects an Industrialized society has on the living conditions of the poor working classes living beneath its refuse. The first verse alone brings to mind the social struggles of Victorian England as seen through the lens of fantasy fiction. “There is a big black bridge and it spans over hundreds of blocks, So those below catch the trash that is thrown, There’s a plague don’t you know going ‘round, a horrible pox, Sick are the shades walking pale and afraid, They sob, why, oh when will it stop?”.

The second track “Mr. Soot’s Little Black Book” is a hyberbolic advertisement for the risqué ladies of “Mister Soot and His Traveling Parade of Pulchritude” (a most immoral establishment). The music twists and winds its way through a poppy but minimal synthpunk carnival.

“Open Arms Empty Air” is a nice mid-tempo dance track that really shows off the bands choice of using the violin as a lead instrument as opposed to guitars or synths. Choral vocals drone as the driving bass kicks along with a persistent 4/4 beat. The lyrics seem to reflect the depressed thoughts of a passenger (or crew member) aboard a lonely airship. “The Skeleton Goes to Town” is a slightly upbeat number about an ex-constable who has turned to a life of crime. Kind of like a demented mixture of Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes.

And finally “Ants Under Glass” is a dark and driving dance track set in the tale of H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds”. The song concerns a survivor of the Martian attacks, who is fleeing for his life through a ruined city. Musically this track draws heavily from the more Industrial/Darkwave side of the bands influences.

So if you’re looking for something different, that adheres to the blueprints laid out by its forebears, yet keeps its own identity and ideas, look no further than “Unextraordinary Gentlemen”.

Unextraordinary Gentlemen – 5 Tales from God-Only-Knows EP
Reviewed by – Mick Mercer of The Mick

I confess I am far more interested by this notion of Steampunk than any of the new Art-Punk notions circulating, as that is something I’ve encountered many times before and represents a simple continuation by a new and enthused generation, which will usher in plenty of good bands but Steampunk represents the taking of a historical phase and bending it into new, beneficial shapes as it suits people. It has every reason to throw up interesting sounds, shifts in emphasis and utilising grand thematic imagery in intriguing ways. A smaller scene, but with bigger, falsified, illusions.

This CD certainly comes with enchanting imagery and fine attention to detail, before embarking on a sonorous Goth stroll in ‘Black Iron Road’ but with a chilly metallic beat which is like old school Industrial thrown into new surrounds, which is the paint, after all. Strings add extra sinews to the foul and visual lyrics. This is misery delivered with passion and a brooding defeatism which is a tough juggling act, the music flowing like a puddle of blood and tar.

‘Mr. Soot’s Little Black Book’ seeps like early indie electro, and celebrates a sordid trade in filthy conditions, and it’s got a creepy 70’s resonance too somehow. ‘Open Arms, Empty Air’ seems closer to a romanticised Goth-Industrial feel, the mildly jaunty skipping rhythm enjoying the vocals deftly stepping strictly in time with the mood keeping to considered desperation as we anticipate (I assume) a suicide form a train? ‘Skeleton Goes To Town’ shifts shiftily, with a rakish delivery and another throttled pop memory, the ghastly character portrayed with classy, inventively jumpy lyrical trysts and shouty/furtive choruses. Demented, threatening and fun, especially with elegant strings strewn about.

‘Ants Under Glass’ creeps into the sun light like a heavenly chorus but then as the tale of a doomed survivor spews out it’s the pattering metallic beat again I the background which gives it a cute difference, as the stylish, skilfully appointed vocals sweep you along which include the ‘death is coming’ promise which adds ominous undertones to a gorgeously sweeping tune or righteous murkiness that is perfectly matched by the invigorating, alarming words.

Fantastic, on all fronts.