Album Reviews: Accidental Gentleman by PiebaldSome critics were worried that 2004's All Ears, All Eyes, All The Time marked an irreversible march forward into the dreaded "maturity" phase for Piebald, a band that built their reputation on accessible, punk-informed rock and roll that paid homage to their native soil (L.A. and Boston) and added a much-needed twist of not taking themselves too seriously. There were still speedy riffs and jokey song inspirations, but all of a sudden there were also pianos and contemplative lyrics! On their one-track contribution to Punk Goes Acoustic, they even convincingly pulled off being an Americana band.
On Accidental Gentlemen, the propulsive and properly named "Opener" serves notice that the veterans may be evolving, but they aren't mellowing out. They've generally moved beyond the effective emo simplicity of their early anthem "American Hearts" (one of their biggest "hits"). While Accidental Gentlemen is another successful step forward, there are a few cases where the band seems a little unsteady with their expanded horizons, and thus potentially very good songs are left merely decent. "Shark Attack" has a Minus the Bear-ish guitar that pops right out of the mix and an interesting vocal melody on the verses, but trips over a clunky and formulaic chorus.
Oddly, although the band deserves credit for shying from a single template, the best songs on Accidental Gentlemen may be their most traditional. Peppiness still serves them well, and the main highlights -- "Oh, the Congestion" and "Getting Mugged & Loving It" -- both kick it up a notch (with tight runtimes of 2:29 and 3:13, respectively). Frontman/guitarist Travis Shettel is a rare bird for his genre, foregoing any trace of nasal brattiness or throaty testosterone displays. Both in lyrical content and vocal tone, he cuts an Everyman figure that works very well for Piebald, who have maintained their blue-collar appeal. They aren't quite scrubbed up enough to be in line to be the next Offspring, even though it seems like that could have been an alternate career path for them.
There's still plenty of irreverence, although, that reputation notwithstanding, Piebald also write songs that are socially and especially environmentally conscious -- though it never pulls focus from the music. They walk that particular walk, too, tooling around the country in a van powered by restaurant grease. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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