Off-Beat Rocker And Off-Beat Classical Pianist Make Amazing Music Together

It’s one thing to have two musicians from different genres writing music together, it almost always ends up with some interesting music being made. It’s quite another thing when the two musicians are as unpredictable and off-the-wall as Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales. You’d expect something weird and wonderful with these two, and as it turned out, you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Jarvis Cocker and his band Pulp rode the Britpop wave to fame way back in the mid 1990s. I always thought Pulp was a lot more clever and a lot more fun than those pretentious bores in Oasis. After Pulp split up in the early 2000s, Cocker set out on his own and honed his distinctive, cheeky, dramatic shit-disturbing style, perhaps best exemplified by his 2009 hit “Running The World”, which assigns a pretty nasty word to those who are, ah, running the world. Can’t say he’s wrong!

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Chilly Gonzales is a Canadian treasure, even though he’s lived in Europe for 15 years. A classically-trained pianist, Gonzales (real name Jason Beck) dabbled in many contemporary styles from an early age, including alternative, pop and hip hop. His combined expertise put him in demand as a kind of song doctor and producer, and he is generally seen as the musical brains behind the breakout of Feist in the 2000s. In recent years Gonzales has stayed with more traditional classical formats while exploring other projects like his brilliant Pop Music Masterclass Series.

So together these two slightly crazy men came up with a concept album called Room 29, which will be released on the Deutsche Grammophon classical label on March 17. The album is about the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood, and all the famous and infamous people who have stayed there since it opened in 1929. It asks the musical question: If the walls could talk, what would they tell us about how we came to be where we are today? Room 29 of the hotel has a baby grand piano. What if it could “sing” about the life stories it witnessed?

Two tracks from the album have been released, and you simply must listen to them. “Tearjerker” features a poignant yet irreverent lyric sung intimately by Cocker over a typically simple yet original piano bit by Gonzales:

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

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

I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like this. The closest thing I can think of, and an obvious inspiration for Cocker, is the legendary French chanteur Serge Gainsbourg. The second track released, “The Tearjerker Returns” features the same theme from “The Tearjerker” with some added classical instrumentation but without the vocals. The track reveals Gonzales’ brilliant talent for finding pop melody within a classical format in a way that doesn’t sound commercial or cheesy. All told, this is new territory being explored here. If we must have a name for it, let’s call it Sonata Rock.




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One comment to “Off-Beat Rocker And Off-Beat Classical Pianist Make Amazing Music Together”
  1. Pingback: Feist’s Brilliant Colbert Performance More Proof Rock Is Alive And Well In 2017 | Rocknuts

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