Gills and Wings
Gills and Wings
By Al Kaufman
Freddie Mercury lives.
Gills and Wings, a five-piece band from Richmond, Va., must have an iPod loaded with "Bohemian Rhapsody." In their wonderfully theatrical rock style, they sing of losers and loners. On "Dealer," their sympathetic paean to the neighborhood drug dealer, lead singer and synth player Danny Keyes croons lines like, "For those who despise me, I'll sing a prayer for you." On "Catastrophe," which rocks harder than anything else on the five-song EP, he is a guy who gets drunk and does bad things.
These are the types of guys who may also say, "Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger now he's dead." These are the types of guys that want to be good but, well, they just can't.
Everything on here has that theatrical quality that Freddie Mercury did so well. Keyes and company are showmen. They know how to let a song slowly build to climax, and Keyes has the sweet pipes to stay with the song the whole way. "Rebirth of a Nation" is a topical song full of hope and passion without sounding hokey.
"Circus," which was featured on MTV's Real World: Brooklyn, closes the disc. Over co-songwriter Santiago de la Fuente's bouncy piano, Keyes invites you to enter "the circus of your mind," yet it is not as trippy as it sounds. It sounds more like a show tune out of the pen of Stephen Sondheim.
Gills and Wings are not for everyone. One needs to appreciate the theatrics of a band like Queen, but not the schmaltz of someone like Meat Loaf. It's a sound The Killers almost achieved before they veered wildly to the left. It's Marlon Brando as a Broadway musical. It's a helluva lot of fun.
Long live Queen.