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,