Vourteque spins electro swing at Rouge on the third Wednesdays of the month and dark country at Dead Roots at Delilah’s on the second Wednesdays of the month. His debut full-length album The Iron and Jazz Age showcases his affinity for these genres. They sit side by side but don’t quite blend. That’s not the point. Likening it to a film, it would be apt to compare it to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
Lang’s silent masterpiece creates a future world of 2026 where the upper class lives in skyscrapers while the workers toil in underground factories. That’s about as political as this piece is going to get. Vourteque’s musical mise-en-scène invokes a jazzy high life with electro swing and a dark, rootsy iron underworld. Even the cover artwork by Steampunk Chicago’s own Forge 22 sets the scene with city towers and smoldering industry.
The album is frontloaded with fun. The first three songs bounce joyously. “Ballyman” beckons like a carnival barker. Sabrina Chap barrels through “Magic Dance,” a David Bowie cover from the Labyrinth soundtrack and his least Bowiesque song since “The Laughing Gnome.” Sean Guinan of Candy Town lays down some raucous and righteous preaching on “Hot Sinner.”
The Iron and Jazz Age takes a darker turn, and moves away from the poppier song structures of the first three songs. “Call & Response” anchors around scat lines from Carey Rayburn of Good Co. “Tributelation” with Allison Curval from The Clockwork Dolls begins with Windham Hill keyboards and mutates into a Venture Bros. soundtrack. Likewise, “Dust Rhythms” and “Oddfellow” take their cues from JG Thirlwell’s Cartoon Network music.
“Firelighter” picks up the pace with Professor Elemental’s guest rap. He’s always good with an Up With People motivational speech. Members of the carny-punks Ford Theatre Reunion contribute to “No Teeth.” It captures the old, weird Dead Roots vibe with chants and bluesy guitar. The album wraps up with Eli August providing vocals on the down home spiritual cum cowboy Goth of “Go Along Now.”
Like Metropolis, The Iron and Jazz Age masks a dark underbelly with a lively veneer. The album is released on May 26 at http://www.vourteque.com/explore/ or http://www.dead2merecords.com/artists/vourteque/.