Gideon King and City Blog – ‘Upscale Madhouse’ (Album Review)

Gideon King and City Blog released their debut self-titled album in 2015. It was a well-received LP that showcased their potential for greatness — in the jazz world especially. It should be no surprise, then, to hear many similar elements, and then some, in their new follow-up Upscale Madhouse. Released in October, Upscale Madhouse proves that Gideon King and City Blog know how to build off of that success from the first album and turn it into a lasting formula.

The album blends rock, jazz, fusion and funk with ease. The shifting between major and minor keys, male and female voices and upbeat/slow melodies keeps your attention and showcases GKCB’s incredible musical talent.

Some of the highlights on the album include “Fake It On Facebook”, “So Evolved”, and “God I’m So Alone”. “Fake It On Facebook,” captures that feeling you get when you see someone on the popular social media platform to impress “friends” with a load shit. Using, as sung in the chorus, “smoke mirrors and lies.” It not only touches on an almost-universal experience — who doesn’t have that one “friend” who’s doing that very thing — it’s also a self-contained story about a young woman clinging to a much-older man for his money and hiding that fact on Facebook.

“So Evolved,” meanwhile, goes in a totally different direction regarding the complexities of relationships. Sung from the female perspective, it’s the perfect song for when you’re trying to get a man to step up his game and commit, or, at the very least make a stand about what your relationship is. Are we dating? Are we just friends? With lyrics like “Be a man, or I’ll make plans without you,” and “You’re just an actor in an off off off Broadway play,” the track hits that feeling with absolute authenticity.

Along those lines, not only are each song’s lyrical themes well thought out, they’re also meticulously put together from a musical perspective. What sets Upscale Madhouse apart, though, is how it serves as both an album of the Millennial era while also walking in-step with music from past generations. The track “God I’m So Alone,” for example talks about what it feels like when your social media platforms, your Instagrams, Snapchats, Facebooks, leave you more alone than they do more connected. However, if you take the lyrical content out of the equation, it’s a timeless track that would be just as fresh if it came out in the 1970s rather than today thanks to its professional composition, its catchy melody and the way it changes tones with ease.

Listening to the the full album, with a run-time of just under an hour, part of me yearned to hear more of their instrumental expertise. The growling guitars, the raindrop-like piano solos, the emotion-driven harmonica, or the funky sax interludes all show why if you get a chance to see these guys play in person you most certainly should. While not every song sets the world on fire, they do have at least one aspect to them that will have you coming back for more, especially if you’re a fan of say Steely Dan, Earth Wind & Fire, John Mayer, or Stevie Wonder.

With Upscale Madhouse, GKCB has another hit on its hands, and it’s only a matter of time before word gets out that these guys are really something special.

Upscale Madhouse, the latest album from New York group Gideon King and City Blog, is out now.