You’re almost thrown into a memory you don’t remember having listened to “Gentleman” by Cooler. I can almost see it in my mind–driving down a highway when the stars are out, looking at the empty air from a sunroof or the bed of a truck, listening to the hum of the stereo, bracing for every pothole. The track itself contains within it this thick and rich atmosphere that lets me close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to relive the summer before my senior year of high school, when everyone was fresh and new when driving was elusive and all a game; it’s an evocative piece, let’s get that right. But it does so subtly. It doesn’t throw the idyllic teenage dream in your face–and I’m reluctant to call it a teenage dream, to be honest. That sort of implies a childlike immaturity, but “Gentleman” has maturity in spades. It’s aware of the world and rejects it anyway. It longs for that bug-ridden summer and bonfires on the beach.
Cooler is a trio from Buffalo, NY, which is pleasant, since I grew up in the upstate of New York too. Maybe that’s why the song imprints on me so much; it’s the music and themes and motifs I grew up listening to. And hell, it was good music. Cooler has captured the essence of what I believe whatever genre of “new-york-summer-music-with-people-jumping-over-bonfires” is. It’s impressive because it’d be incorrect to call it an imitation–the style is all their own. The drumline is absolutely spot on with the bassline. They complement each other in such a perfect way, and then when the relaxed, airy vocals come it–everything ties together. The best kind of music, to me, is when the beat and the vocals meet up in the middle to make more than the sum of their parts. Instrumentals and acapellas are fine, but “Gentleman” is why they’re a better couple than friends with benefits. The story of the song is a classic tale of “look at me now”, and it’s empowering. I’m afraid to say this–in case the song has great sentimental value to Cooler–but the lyrics take a backseat for me. Not the vocals; the vocals are part of the music.
But when I listen to the track, I’m not thinking about the woven storyline. I’m thinking about how the drums kick off the wall, how the humming of the lead’s voice doesn’t quite pierce the air but becomes one with it, and how the guitar (that guitar!) picks along.
What does this make “Gentleman”? It makes it the song the lead character of that coming of age movie runs after his crush to. It’s the song I’ll listen to when I go back to upstate New York and swim in stupidly cold lakes, even though it’s 90 degrees out. It’s slightly personal to me, but I don’t think that makes my experience bias. If you can close your eyes on a summer’s day, with wet grass under your feet, I’m sure this song will lift it’s way up from your subconscious. That, or I’ll be blasting it from the car in the driveway.