With a name that sounds more like a moniker for a 1920s-era boxer than a Canadian singer / songwriter, Gentleman Reg seems to be ready for his turn in the ring. Reg Vermue, the fair skinned, Martin Gore look-alike, has lived a Zelig-like life in Canadian indie music for the last few years, blending into guest appearances with Sufjan Stevens, the Constantines, Broken Social Scene, Final Fantasy and the Hidden Cameras. But his own music has been championed by his collaborators and with good reason. The music of Gentleman Reg is celebratory fun, and Jet Black, his latest album, is a pop celebration that’s been a long time coming.
It’s been five years since Reg Vermue released his last solo record, Darby & Joan. Since then, he’s become somewhat of a gay indie icon. A role and a song in the John Cameron Mitchell film, Shortbus, as well as having songs featured in the show, Queer as Folk have certainly made Reg more of a household name in the gay community, but Jet Black could catapult this talented artist into larger spheres. From the nostalgic ’70s guitars of opener “Coastline” to the hypnotic rock / funk of the Squeeze-like “Rudy,” the songs on Jet Black are miraculous little treasures to be either savored like hard candy or devoured like bon bons.
The initial single off the album, “You Can’t Get It Back,” is a great introduction to the album, though it is buried a little way into the tracklisting. Reg’s voice flows on silken smooth streams over charged pop chords and trusty rock flourishes. “How We Exit” is another standout, infectious in its sing along refrains, vaulting new wave into the lo-fi indie future, with horns. “Rewind” is a touching and stately ballad with truly memorable repeated phrases in the coda. This then leads into a sure-fire club hit, the slinky “We’re In a Thunderstorm.” The song, which features quite possibly some of Reg’s best vocals on the album, is sure to win over fans of Hercules & the Love Affair and Hot Chip. Hopefully, Reg will make this the second single. The chorus of “I dress myself up and run around” will be bouncing around your head for weeks as you imagine yourself in the midst of hedonistic sweaty bodies on a crowded dance floor. “Falling Back” completes the series of standouts in the center of the album, as arresting and catchy as one of Jason Collett’s stompers. “Everlong,” which is not a cover of the Foo Fighters song, reminds me of some of Prince’s stuff from his fertile middle period, before the name change.
“Rudy,” the Squeeze-like song I mentioned earlier, is the rollicking closer, a perfect choice for wrapping up an album that feels like an endorphin-fueled workout. The song builds and builds to its closing exhausting seconds, leaving the listener in a mollified heap on the floor. We’re not quite done yet with February, and Gentleman Reg is sure to take on all challengers as having one of the most entertaining and rewarding albums of the year. It’s sure to stay on my iPod for a while to come.
Aimee Mann- I’m With Stupid
Jason Collett- Idols of Exile
Prince- Sign o’ the Times