I am not easy to shock. I'd give you examples of what doesn't shock me but, even if they made it past the editor, they would leave you stunned and dismayed, unable to ever read a Garfield comic again without breaking into shrieks of terror.
I also love the music of Kevin Gilbert and would gladly bear his children if he hadn't died a few years back. The Kaviar Sessions is the project he was working on at the time of his death. Simply put, Kaviar is a collection of brutally post-modern, twisted and cynical love songs, a tour through a modern haunted house of broken, dysfunctional relationships. These songs are not the simple "shock jock" fodder, nor are they offensive in a traditional sense. Gilbert intelligently prods the dark recesses of the subconscious and the sick, often with craven, perverted humor. Just when you think he can't go any more over the top, he gleefully shows you that there is yet another debased alley to explore, one you would have never imagined possible.
The opening track, "Death Orgy 9000" pictures a world where Battlebots meets monster truck racing in a demolition derby arena where the cars are driven by scantily clad robot supermodels seventy feet tall, an arena where "Dismembered parts bump and grind" and "Kids under twelve are free." Only Gilbert could make the line "I wanna take you on a picnic" sound like a personal threat instead of a pleasant afternoon, all bathed in the body-moving smorgasbord of guitars and drums that is "Picnic". Another killer track is "Pretty" that combines a creepy, spoken male voice saying, "I mailed you a picture of myself / Along with this letter/ Because I want you to tell me if you think I'm pretty" with a writhing orgy of guitars and bass where the vocalist screams "IF YOU DON'T THINK I'M PRETTY / I'M GONNA KILL MYSELF." The music of "Indian Burn" typifies Gilbert's intense genius with so many intricate, interesting parts, each different and convoluted but somehow all coexisting in the same space, complimenting each other in a manic fusion of furious sound and all played by real musicians. The creepiest song is "Single", everyone's worst dating nightmare, where we listen in to the male side of a first computer-matched date. From what he says, he sounds like a great catch as he cooks, loves children, is good friends with his mom, has read "Bridges of Madison County", etc. The music is catchy lounge style with simple piano, drums and a twisted bass line. But periodically we're taken into his mind. The melody stays the same but now it's dark, loud, and distorted and his voice mutates into a whispered scream with lines like "First I'll strip off all your clothes and put them on me" and "Make me your toilet." The episode ends with him drugging his date. As if this isn't enough, a "hidden" track at the end of the album is another version of the date where the lead does a big line of coke, clothed tattoos are unclothed, and personal body parts/orifices and their piercings examined, all in the restaurant. I didn't know whether to laugh, blush or cringe.
Like all of Kevin's music, I'm inexplicably drawn, yet on this I'm also repulsed, partly by the scathing lyrical content, partly by how different it is from past work and yet it still retains the Gilbert trademark. The musicianship is top notch and always inventive, yet the lyrics are mostly spoken, given a novelty feel and reducing the desire for repeated listens. However, in the weeks since I first heard this album, nearly each of the nine songs has invaded my skull, bursting through like a rapist in the dead of night. I don't want to listen because the words are so awful, but the music is so sweet and I can't resist. Only those not easily offended should check this out at www.kevingilbert.com.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 2002.