Thursday, 16 March 2017

Chilly Gonzales & Jarvis Cocker - Room 29, album review

Fine Satirical and Musical Theatre

I was never a Pulp fan – not disliking, but not inclined to its Brit Pop [or whatever tag applies] and thus have little to align myself to it and Jarvis Cocker from the past – but I have always had a distant respect for Cocker, not least after he wafted a fart towards Michael Jackson live at the Brits [was it the Brits?] and thus also wafting his satirical but genuine disdain at the pomp and bloat of pop and the music industry.

In this album he would seem to be continuing his highly personal take on what music and therefore art should be: something singularly meaningful and purposeful – here the tales imagined and based on real events that took place at the Chateau Marmont and specifically in room 29 where Jarvis himself once stayed, apparently.

It is easier to read about the history of the Chateau/hotel from those in the know, and I would recommend this Guardian article. These are musical vignettes, the music provided by Canadian Chilly Gonzales, and are in most respects showy, theatrical pieces in sound and mood, the storytelling from dark to cheeky, the latter like Belle Boy in overall tone which is whimsical as well as darkly comic – the trials and tribulations of the generic belle boy – delivered in melodramatic music, rising lines and tight rhymes.

There are found sounds throughout – the sounds of a lift door opening/closing, glasses chinking and so on – and spoken voices as personas or as narratives from other sources. At times Cocker’s voice is sonorous, at others quite intentionally fragile, so the emotive is being foregrounded over and above melody. These are not memorable songs in their tunes, but instead in what they say and convey. It is intelligent storytelling in as much as this is the focus.

So I will be listening to hear more from the lyrics and follow those vignettes. There are sweet orchestrations as well as piano pieces that have a pleasing musicality – Salomé being a good example, though at times Cocker sounds a little too much like Chris Martin which alienates, until I remember who it is.

A Trick of the Light is perhaps the most theatrical, and the piano with strings sweep as it ends is beautifully cinematic, both as score and how it accompanies the story. The song Tearjerker and its instrumental echo The Tearjerker Returns is one of the more affecting, plaintive in both aspects of its story and the piano with melancholic string arrangement. Here are the lyrics:

You are such a jerk
You are a tearjerker
You don't need a girlfriend
You need a social worker


She's waiting at the airport
You're in your hotel room
With somebody who doesn't know you


Everybody always knew
The game that you were playing
You were fooling no one
So we're glad that you are paying


But still she's going to cry
Yes still it's going to hurt her
But you are a tearjerker
You're such a jerk yeah
A tearjerker
You're such a jerk, yeah


These surfaces are shining
Anything wipes off them
These surfaces are hard
Nothing seems to mark them


Breakfast ends at ten AM
Do you thing we could be through by then
Cause breakfast is inclusive
Do you think I'm stupid?


I'm stupid. I'm stupid.
You are such a jerk
You are a tearjerker

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