Gonzales : Presidential Suite

A wind-up merchant of the highest order...

A Canadian-born Jewish MC who relocated to Germany, where he

proclaimed himself ‘President of the Berlin Underground’,
Chilly Gonzales is the sort of bloke who would go out

of his way – halfway around the the world, in fact – to be at odds with the world. “I’ll be the first to burst

your balloon,” he pledges on ‘Presidential Suite”s opening

track, ‘So Called Party Over There’, and, whether it’s that

track’s dissection of the audience-entertainer relationship, saccharine

little ditty ‘Chilly In F Major’ or the whole overriding
Gonzales: white-nerd-rapper concept, Chilly is determined to

irritate and stir debate. He is, in short, a wind-up merchant.

Which would be fine, except that, behind the usual braggart

rhymes, he doesn’t actually have anything that controversial

to say. Gonzales‘ declaration on last year’s gloriously nuts

single ‘Take Me To Broadway’ that, “I don’t wanna make

you bounce/ I want to be loved and hated in equal amounts”,

was disingenuous – there’s plenty here to make you bounce –

but also presumptuous. There are good points well made

here (on guilt, the music biz, corporate culture, 21st century

self-doubt) but there is nothing startlingly original. Like
Neil Tennant or Morrissey,
Gonzales realises that irony,

arch wit and apparent insincerity often carry more depth of

meaning than simple honesty, but, lyrically, he’s not in their league.

No, this album, his third, is his best because the tunes

rock. ‘Uber Alles’ and ‘The Entertainist’, lacked the pizazz

of his outlandish outfits, but, here, Gonzales is in full

mad-pop effect, his rebellious, questioning attitude flowering

in the studio. A hip-hop album in name only, this is

more The Nutcracker Suite performed by Chicks On Speed. We

have electro-folk hip-hop, ‘Shameless Eyes’, symphonic click-house,

‘Scheme And Variations’, sleazy Prince-like funk, ‘1000 Faces’,

soaring lounge music, ‘Starlight’ – featuring

Vienna’s Sinatra, Louie Austen – and several stripped-bare electro

stonkers (including the obligatory great duet with Peaches),

all shot through with a giddy sense of their own musical freedom.

It’s not easy to love, and harder to loathe, the Gonzales

“character”. And, conversely, ‘Presidential Suite’ brings

us no closer to understanding who Chilly (his real name, bizarrely

listed as Sasha Baron Cohen at www.allmusic.com, is Jason Beck) really is.

The concept, then, is flawed.

But, don’t sweat it, because the sense that really lingers is of a

fun record, a big, daft daring amalgam that could really fly,

if only Gonzales could let the “issues” go and get really,

surreally funny.

Tony Naylor