“So, you think you know Kevin Gilbert’s music, eh? You know all about Toy Matinee, Thud, and his masterpiece, The Shaming of the True…You may not know about…the side of Gilbert that would produce The Kaviar Sessions. Bootlegs of this material have been circulating since shortly after his untimely passing in 1996, but now…you can pick up an ‘estate-approved’ copy” (Marshall) at PopPlusOne.com.
The Kaviar Sessions documents Gilbert’s last work. It is “a group effort” (Roth), “but with Kevin behind the songwriting and the producing” (Roth). They “pulled nary a punch here in delivering a ground-breaking work” (Vreeland). “These are very,very strange compositions” (Roth). “The Shaming of the True hinted at the direction (or one of the directions) that Gilbert was going, but Kaviar was the extreme” (Marshall).
“Gilbert and co. here have expanded on a fine tradition used in some of the most sucessful lyrical endeavors of recent years, like Peter Gabriel’s classic 3rd solo album, or much of David Byrne’s work, in which the singer assumes the first-person and speaks from the viewpoint of his subject” (Vreeland). Meanwhile, “the music behind Gilbert’s dark lyrics…celebrates masculinity while the lyrics simultaneously expose its unseemly underbelly” (Vreeland).
This “is a collection of brutally post-modern, twisted and cynical love songs” (Hoffman) “dealing largely with men whose sexual and relational hang-ups appear to bring grief and dismay to the women around them” (Vreeland). “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” (Hoffman) with his “in-your-face sarcasm” (Vreeland) “that there is yet another debased alley to explore, one you would have never imagined possible” (Hoffman).
Never is this more apparent than on Single, “the creepiest song” (Hoffman) on the album, in which a “disingenuous blind date…spews mushy platitudes, all the while scheming his twisted plans” (Vreeland). “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” (Hoffman), “probably the coolest groove on the CD” (Marshall).
“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 piercing are examined, all in the restaurant” (Hoffman).
There’s also the character from “The Sultan of Brunei, who uses his billions to lure women into what could be fantasyland, or what could be slavery” (Vreeland). Musically, “the song would’ve easily been right at home on one of Rundgren’s mid-80s albums” (Marshall).
“Even the one cover on the album successfully twists Iggy Pop’s Fall in Love with Me into a fantasy of drooling obsession” (Vreeland). “Kevin does a great Iggy imitation on the song (picture Iggy singing in his low vocal range & you’ll get the idea)” (Marshall).
The opening Death Orgy 9000 “is a veritable goldmine of dark and humorous quotes for Gilbert fans” (Marshall). ‘Orgy’ “pictures a world where Battlebots meets monster truck racing in a demolition derby arena where the cars are driven by scantily clad robot supermodels, 70 feet tall, an arena where ‘dismembered parts bump and grind’ and ‘kids under twelve are free’” (Hoffman).
“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” (Hoffman). The song “features a killer bass line, but it’s the handclaps that really make the song. Like the previous song, Kevin’s vocals are heavily processed. It’s hard to tell it’s him singing until the middle of the song” (Marshall).
“Another killer track is Pretty, combining 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’” (Hoffman). This “is the only song from the disc that was ever performed during Gilbert’s live shows” (Marshall).
“Kevin’s lyrical wit is in full force on Indian Burn” (Marshall) while the music “typifies Gilbert’s intense genius with so many intricate, interesting parts, each different and convoluted but somehow all coexisting in the same space, complementing each other in a manic fusion of furious sound and all played by real musicians” (Hoffman). “There’s a horn section on the song, and D’Virgilio’s percussion work on the track is outstanding” (Marshall).
“Making Kristy Cry makes excellent use of strings. The song slowly builds into an intense cacophony on the chorus, only to be offset by the children’s choir” (Marshall).
“One of the many things Gilbert had going for his was uncanny sense of timing. ‘Kristy’ is a good example, but Broken is even better. The way he worked around the phone message in the song (which can also be heard in The Rubinoos’ track, ‘Gone to Seed’) is simply amazing” (Marshall).
What to say in wrapping up? It is hard not to be “inexplicably drawn” (Hoffman) to Kaviar, yet “repulsed, partly by the scathing lyrical content, partly by how different it is from past work while still retaining the Gilbert trademark. The musicianship is top notch and always inventive” (Hoffman), but the overabundance of spoken lyrics creates “a novelty feel and reduc[es] the desire for repeated listens…the words are so awful, but the music is so sweet…Only those not easily offended should check this out” (Hoffman).