***Gentleman Jesse has been a mainstay in the Atlanta music scene since the mid/late ‘90s. He’s played with countless musicians over those years, most notably with legendary art-damaged punks The Carbonas and with power-pop punkers (power-punk poppers?) Gentleman Jesse and His Men, as well as releasing music on his own Douchemaster Records. After nearly a decade away from the recording studio (while he focused on his other love, running award-winning restaurants), Gentleman Jesse has strolled back into the studio, releasing the Compass EP. These songs are still packed with his trademark melodic jangle, now with an added air of melancholy. It feels like Jesse has been on a decade-long deep dive into the nooks and crannies of the ‘80s New Zealand underground music scene and is all the better for it. This EP features “Compass” from Lose Everything, plus two tracks exclusive to this Third Man release—a ripping cover of “True” originally by Atlanta punk unknowns The Fans and an original “Protecting Nothing” co-written with the one and only Greg Cartwright.
***After ten long years away from the studio, Gentleman Jesse returns to us bearing a new ten-track album that benefits greatly from the wisdom and heartbreak that a decade of life on this planet affords. An album titled Lose Everything is bound to have its dark side, and behind the powerful melodies and jangly guitars a hint of sadness hangs in the air. But Jesse makes a bad time a good listen—after all, he's responsible for tunes like Carbonas' "Phone Booth" and his debut single "I Don't Wanna Know." While age tends to water down the output of older musicians, it's had the opposite effect on Jesse. Gone is any semblance of kitsch or power-pop convention. Also gone are his band—he's flying solo this time. What remains is a dazzling, mature earworm of a guitar-pop album. Each record comes in a matte jacket adorned with the photography of Riley McBride and also includes a lovingly assembled booklet featuring lyrics and original woodcut prints made by the Gentleman himself.
Since Gentleman Jesse’s first album came out in the summer of 2008, he’s had plenty of excuses to put the “Gentleman” part of his act to bed. In fact, the Mr. Nice Guy routine landed him in bed for a month after being mugged and beaten with a table leg while he was trying to help two strangers change a tire. When the economy tanked, violent crime in Atlanta exploded, making the city a dreary place to live for a while. In addition, several tragedies hit the Atlanta music scene and the Douchemaster Records family close to home. It was a bad time and Jesse took it very personally. He was close to throwing in the towel and retiring to a dark room with cheap beer and YouTube videos. To cope with the reality of living in a place that was going straight to hell, Jesse went down to the basement of his house and wrote twenty songs that would become Leaving Atlanta. What could have easily become a bummer record ended up being nothing short of inspiring. The album is bookended by “Eat Me Alive,” an anthem of perseverance that was for Jesse a demon-exercising tool, and another mover titled “We Got to Get Out of Here,” which is less about getting out of an actual location and more about getting out of a state of mind. Stylistically, Jesse never strays from his bread and butter: short, hook-driven and delicately patterned rock ’n’ roll songs. One could compare him...