Longtime Feist collaborator and Guinness’ World Record holder for longest solo piano concert Chilly Gonzales has come out with a new album, “The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales.” For fans of tracks such as “I Am Europe” and “Map of the World,” his latest incarnation may be jarring.
Although his skill as a pianist and arranger figure prominently on the album, Gonzales’ vocals seem somewhat detached from the orchestration. And while the music is layered with voluptuous melodies, referring at times to George Gershwin and Eric Satie, his vocals don’t do the tonal gymnastics of former works. The lyrics are still very funny, not to mention intelligent, skimming across everything from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” to Eric Cartman from “South Park”, but they also include a healthy dose of inner conflict. This can be heard most expressly in the song “Who wants to hear this?” which is full of the question posed in the title, does this have any worth? Will anyone have any reason to download this?
Where does this conflict come from? Possibly from the same place that provoked him to change his name from Jason Beck to Chilly Gonzales in the first place. “If you don’t like rap then… you’re probably a racist,” he declares in the song “Rap Race.” Classism is addressed as well. In “Beans” he describes the value of counting beans, making money and having your share of the pie, but it is most likely a parody of the music industry that he has become a part of.
His criticism is not restricted to society, but to the listener as well. In Supervillain Music he points out that, “You’re out of smart questions because this song has long answers,” and his songs do have long answers. Sometimes the answers are a bit too long, as in Bongo Monologue, which delivers an inordinate amount of bongo.
To his credit, it is apparent Gonzales is the genius he proclaims to be, a virtuoso pianist, gifted showman, and now writer, producer and actor in the movie “Ivory Tower.” Perhaps the track “Shut Up and Play the Piano” sums up the album best, in which he does play the piano but at no point shuts up. For Chilly Gonzales, that’s probably the point.