“The Harlot and the Gambler” is a featured track on Pale Blue Dot’s recent Live Sampler release. The four piece delivers deeply felt alternative rock with a strong lyrical bent rather than a reliance of riffing and sonic muscle. The band has a two guitar lineup regularly capable of achieving a distinctive weave without recalling other acts. Pale Blue Dot likewise pledges loyalty to intellectual and artistic ethos you don’t normally associate with such acts. They crib their name from a famous Carl Sagan quote and cite Henry David Thoreau, but it sets them apart without ever sounding pretentious. “The Harlot and the Gambler” is an excellent example of how they marry the intelligent, visceral, and melodic in a single satisfying package.
The song runs almost seven minutes and affords the band a chance to stretch out. Despite this, you will be hard pressed to identify any egregious demands on listener’s patience and time. The song’s impact is incremental; the restless searching weave that guitarist Tony LoRocco and Dakota Slager spur to life builds its effects over time. Pale Blue Dot is intent on casting a spell over listeners rather than overwhelming them and you will likely prefer their gradualist approach.
LoRocco is the band’s vocalist as well. He has a full and emotive voice that scarcely needs amplification to be heard over the musical din. His singing packs that sort of power. The rhythm section provides LoRocco and Slager with the sort of musical foundation they need to invest the song with their aforementioned guitar weave. The biggest reason for its success, however, lies with the even-handed production that highlights each element without it coming at the expense of others.
There are no extended or pronounced guitar theatrics. Hints of impending explosiveness, however, abound without ever spilling over. Maintaining such simmering tension is one of the song’s high water marks as it shows compositional cunning as well as masterful playing skill. “The Harlot and the Gambler” never sounds too orchestrated though. Instead, it has a painterly effect while still moving with enviable naturalness.
They make no bones about their ambitions. It is not to remake the songwriting wheel or open up new vistas of expression, nothing so gaudy. They aim instead at crafting consistently high quality songs that are capable of taking on any subject matter. “The Harlot and the Gambler” reach that goal with room to spare. It is obvious that their acumen is sharpening with each new release.
They prove their mettle as a live act too. Effortless sparks crackle from this live rendition and the band has clear live chemistry honed from countless hours and prior gigs. It is an outfit that doesn’t mess around; music is the focus, not cute stage patter or shallow theatrics. Pale Blue Dot’s “The Harlot and the Gambler” is a needed reminder that memorable alt rock is still with us, it’s far from exhausted, and a new generation of practitioners harbor the talent to carry it further than ever before.