The title of A Fight to the Death's second CD, Gesture of a Gentleman, telegraphs a story in just four short words. But not even the group's singer and ukulele player CJ Bargamian can tell you what it's about.
"The title comes from a quote in some old movie that our drummer Mark Carbone saw, probably a year ago, and has kept in the back of his head," Bargamian says. "I don't know the name of the movie, and Mark probably can't tell you, either. But he thought it was appropriate for our routine of wearing suits when we play, and for the kind of Devotchka-meets-Dean Martin thing we go for."
In explaining the name, Bargamian underscores the vaguely cinematic nature of AFTD's sound, which falls somewhere between gypsy, Latin, jazz, Americana and the soundtrack to a spaghetti Western. With Gesture of a Gentleman, Bargamian and Carbone – along with bassist Daniel Winn, pianist Nathan T. Green and pedal steel/guitar player George Wallace – craft a sprawling, atmospheric journey that's unified in soundscape and chemistry. "Mothers & Fathers" comes together on a bed of Latin/salsa rhythms that envelope most of the album, but lie heavily in the subtle nuances. "Scissors" bounds with deliberate restraint that never lets its exotic rhythms reach full peak, giving rise to a quiet but compelling tension. "Thirty Years" booms but unfolds with the same tempered glide before bursting with a cycle of fugue-like moments of mature rock and roll enormity.
The group's 2008 self-titled debut was largely the product of Bargamian's songwriting, but Gesture bares the magnitude of a group coming into its own, functioning on silent telepathy. "I wrote pretty much everything on the last record, but I've always given these guys free reign to do whatever they want with my song ideas," Bargamian adds. "This time most of the songs originated in melodies and chord structures that I brought to the band. But I trust these guys to take the skeletons that I have and really flesh them out." On Gesture of a Gentleman, the songs take on a life of their own with sophistication and worldly flair.