“Kevin Gilbert played and wrote on numerous albums and was a veteran of the L.A. music scene by the time he released his solo debut, Thud.” TD Not only had he “written and produced songs for Madonna and Michael Jackson,” JRA he’d also recorded two albums with the band Giraffe, another with Toy Matinee, and, most famously, was part of the famous collective that spawned Sheryl Crow’s blockbuster debut.
Crow signed on as the touring keyboardist for Toy Matinee in ‘91 and she and Gilbert became romantically involved. He brought her to a laid back gathering of musicians known as the Tuesday Night Music Club and the casual sessions turned into material for Crow’s album of the same name. When she became a superstar, Gilbert and other TNMC’ers felt slighted as she took what they deemed was more than her fair share of the credit.
“As Crow’s relationship with Gilbert deteriorated…an increasingly bitter Gilbert threw himself deeper into his own album.” JS96 Producer Bill Bottrell, “who used to hear Gilbert thumping away through the common wall” JS96 at Toad Hall, said, “‘it was a long process…He sat over there endless nights.’” JS96
The result was an “absolutely stellar album” RU that really lives up to the title of being a “solo album” – Gilbert “takes a hand at virtually every instrument at some point on the record. He also engineered and produced the record at his own Pasadena studio.” RU “The music focuses on the use of acoustic guitar, powerful lyrics and accentuated vocal style.” GW
Upon its release, the “masterful but underpromoted effort” JS96 hit the music world with, well, a thud. “Perhaps Gilbert’s distinctive style is hard for the music industry to get a handle on – that is, sell easily to a mass audience.” JRA “But that shouldn’t bother anyone looking for a rock artist who ranges from folk to pop and (occasionally) goes out even farther on the musical ledge.” JRA “Thud showcases Gilbert’s satirical bite, his talents as a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist.” PX “This complex yet accessible collection of material demonstrates a remarkable range as well as some incredible musicianship.” RU
Of the album’s unfortunately ironic title, KG said Thud “is a lot of things. It’s what the record is, the sound of the other shoe dropping. Thud is the sound that my studio makes at the moment because of all the old weird gear I have in it. I like the word.” CH As KG says in the album’s liner notes, “Thud is the sound one’s head makes as it hits the table.”
The comment makes more sense in the context of the cover art, which is also explained in the liner notes: “That’s the Baron George Hoyningen-Huene having ‘A Vision at Glyphada.’ Photographer Herbert List captured his head hitting the table on the plains of Glyphada, Greece in 1937.” EB
The photo undoubtedly captured Gilbert’s frustration with his inability to reach the audience he deserved. His “intelligent, well-crafted pop [offers] an occasional nod to the experimental, reminiscent of his Music Club cohort David Baerwald.” BS His “introspective songs” TD share “the same pop sensibility of Sheryl Crow” TD and “his thoughtful lyrics and clever word-play,” BS along with “the way his pained vocals delivered his clever lyrics” PX “spicen pessimistic songs about the state of the world that would be mundane in the hands of lesser intellects.” BS
“Much like…Toy Matinee…there’s not a weak track on the album, all songs showing evidence of his troubled musical genius.” PX “Each song is expertly written, arranged, played, and produced.” JRI To emphasize the words and vocals, “the production is generally very low-key;” EB Kevin “deliberately chose to stick to simple sounds on Thud.” EB “There’s not a lyric anywhere…that you can’t get from just listening,” CH says KG, because “the voice is really dry and right up front in the mix.” CH “Giraffe and Toy Matinee…both utilized synthesizers and significant production efforts,” EB but these “songs are mostly acoustic rock, with electric guitars thrown in for effect in places.” EB Gilbert says, this is “a lot more true to what I am because it was just me doing it.” CH
The “heartfelt” PJ When You Give Your Love to Me is “one of Kevin’s best efforts.” EB It “is a catchy little ditty” JRA that “starts with acoustic guitar rhythm followed with Kevin’s powerful vocal with strong accents. The music flows seamlessly with acoustic guitar plays important role as rhythm plus drum as beat keeper. But still, vocal is the key driver of song structure and composition.” GW Lyrically, this “finds our man pleading his case for love in a way that’s both winning and funny.” JRA “‘There’ll be global peace and religious tolerance/There’ll be a perfect harmonic convergence, when you give your love to me.’” JRA These “are among the many fringe benefits promised by the singer in exchange for his lover’s affection.” BS The “tongue in cheek” EB lyrics allow “for a somewhat more fulfilling experience than the usual fluff that exists in love songs.” EB
“Goodness Gracious exudes the essence of Gilbert.” JRA The song “is more uptempo but still seems angry” PJ “with its creepy, irrestible melody” JRA and “Kevin’s indignation with a society that has stuck him with the bill for its past excesses:” EB “Goodness gracious, we came in at the end/No sex that isn’t dangerous, no money left to spend/We’re the cleanup crew for parties we were too young to attend.” JRA It is also “spooky in its clairvoyance – its lyrics even more true today than they were at the time of the album’s release. ‘Goodness Gracious/ I’m not listening anymore/ Cause the spooks are in the White House/ and they’ve justified a war/ So wake me when they notify we’re gonna fight some more.’” PX Musically, the song “starts interestingly with a blues-based acoustic guitar” GW but “the incorporation of electric guitar sound at the back is good.” GW “In line with its aggressive tone, this…[is] the most rocking tune of the album, with the possible exception of ‘Shadow Self.’” EB
Joytown is a “whimsical song” EB “composed with music loop as basic song structure.” GW “The song moves excellently with Kevin’s singing style…Kevin’s vocal moves ups and downs with the flow of the song…Sax work is incorporated at the end of the track.” GW Lyrically, this offers “musings on contemporary life littered with pop culture icons over a bluesy shuffle.” TD Gilbert adds: “it’s very alternative. It doesn’t have much at all to do with things progressive.” CH In singing of “an idyllic place where all of our fallen heroes live the lives they deserve to lead;” EB “not only do ‘people tear down parking lots so they can build more parks,’ but ‘Lennon never has to sing a Paul McCartney song.’” BS
KG described the song as “a product of the Tuesday Music Club.” CH Drummer Brian MacLeod continues, explaining that it was a “thing we did in Bill’s studio…it was just me, Kevin and Dan. In New York I saw these guys playing on trash cans. So I went to a hardware store and bought a bunch of plastic trash cans. I brought them in and said, ‘Kevin check this out!’ So Kevin put a microphone up inside and goes ‘Oh, that sounds amazing!’ …Kevin put up a mic and hit record, and he just recited those lyrics out of his head.” BM Gilbert notes that “the song gestated in my head as a concept for three or four months,” PS1 but it really fell together “one night at TNMC [when] we were sort of jamming and I started rapping on these lyrics spontaneously – all those things spilled out and over an hour I assembled them into couplets that rhymed.” PS1
While the “eerie” JRA Waiting “is a pretty catchy song, its tone is still heavy on the darker side of things.” PJ It “excellently dispels the myth of the promise of better days to come.” PX “The fantastic line, ‘I’m waiting for the Mafia to make this song a hit’” EB showcases his clever wordplay and sarcastic humor. “In Gilbert’s vocal delivery you hear his skepticism that the better times he’s waiting for will ever actually arrive.” PX Instead, there seems to be “a certainty of future disappointments that the longer he waits for things the less apt they are to happen.” PX
The “stirring” JRA “Tea for One is “a memorable late night track for discerning listeners.” PJ It “is a good melodic song” GW “with some killer hooks,” PJ “simple structure and Kevin’s low register notes vocal” GW that really suggests KG “could have filled-up Genesis’ music when Peter Gabriel left the band.” GW This “is one of the sadder songs on the album” EB as it “captures the pain of loneliness and unrequited love with a stark emotional poignance.” PX “Gilbert writes some fantastic lyrics and this song is full of them.” PJ The song tells “the story of a man named Duncan whose infatuation with a woman goes unfulfilled due to his hesitance to make an advance.” EB The song is delivered in a manner “that allows the listener to feel the pain of Duncan…and make an emotional connection with the music that is lacking in more conventional pop songs.” PX The vocals…ring very true, with the perfect aspect of forlorn wailing while still singing words to music.” EB KG also “adds a toy piano to the mix to good effect.” TD
Shadow Self, the album’s “ambitious centerpiece,” PS1 is “a mini-prog epic about the devil inside us all.” JRI KG says it “was actually supposed to be called ‘Late for Dinner,’ but it got the less subtle title of ‘Shadow Self’ due to a mixup with the publisher.” EB Under any title, it is “an elaborate, almost progressive rock-styled piece” EB with “some symphonic nuance,” GW “a different style compared to the other” GW songs on the album, that features “lots of distortion, filters and different vocal tracks.” EB There’s also “great drumming and inventive bass lines.” GW As KG said: “I went nuts production-wise. I just wanted train wrecks of styles, so like every eight bars it changes styles dramatically…There’s acoustic guitar and then this hip-hoppy bass part and a male choir of vikings singing at the same time. Then there’s out of context things where a really sweet sounding flute is against these very punk drums because I like the clash of style. That’s my favorite track in an adventurous sort of way.” CH
From a lyrical standpoint, the song is a warning to prevent the Shadow Self from taking over. The song says that “all of us have…a darker evil version of ourselves, a Shadow Self, [that] we keep at bay, that feeds off of our negativity and grows…the more we give into that negativity.” PX KG described the song as “an essay on the dark side of human nature.” CH “It’s not unlike ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by The Rolling Stones, except that instead of being spoken by a specific being, the words are those of the evil within each person, trying to gain influence over the person’s actions.” EB
“The lovely lament The Tears of Audrey” JRA is “haunting and beautiful,” PJ laying “its heart firmly on its sleeve.” PJ It “is a mellow track with low register notes voice line. The melody is good, the arrangement is simple. It’s like a pop song.” GW It is about “putting up walls to keep love out.” PX Audrey is “a woman who, following the death of her husband, bottles up her feelings and isolates herself from the world.” EB “The listener wants the tears of Audrey to fall, to break down the emotional walls many of us are guilty of putting up.” PX “The tone of the song is actually unusual when contrasted against ‘Tea for One’ and ‘Song for a Dead Friend,’ which both deal with loss, because ‘The Tears of Audrey’ is written from the perspective of a gentle third party.” EB
“There is absolutely nothing that better demonstrates Kevin’s personal growth over the years than the difference in title between [Shrug (Because of Me and You)] and ‘Because of You’, from Giraffe’s album The Power of Suggestion. The lyrics are almost exactly the same, with a few minor changes in the order of the lyrics and a few turns of phrase that work better in ‘Shrug.’ As far as music goes, ‘Shrug’” EB is “another pop-rock song in slow tempo with firm drum beats and cool guitar fills. Kevin’s vocals combine a balanced high and low points.” GW It “has a much more casual and organic tone to it, as befits its title and Kevin’s change in musical style, whereas ‘Because of You’ has Giraffe’s signature thick synth sound and heavy engineering making it a more driving, aggressive song.” EB
All Fall Down is another reworked Giraffe tune; the original is from The View from Here. It “is a melodic song with good arrangement.” GW “The order of the lyrics here…really highlight Kevin’s increased confidence in his writing. The Giraffe version relied much more strongly on repetition, particularly…of the chorus, which ends up diminishing the power of the lyrics in the verses; inversely, the Thud version allows the lyrics to tell a story and paint a picture with a better (and less frequent) chorus. As far as the music goes, the Thud version goes out on a limb slightly from the rest of the album, incorporating muted brass and more elaborate orchestration, as well as backup singers, which are less evident on the rest of the album. However, it works very effectively in creating a musical tone that represents a wake for the world.” EB
The album’s dramatic closer, the “touching” JRA Song for a Dead Friend, is “an acoustic-guitar-based composition with main characteristic on powerful vocal quality of Kevin Gilbert.” GW There is a “Peter Gabriel’s ‘Here Comes the Flood’ nuance” GW in the “melancholy piano [that opens the songs] and just grips your soul.” PJ The words are “so personal as to be almost too painful to hear.” BS KG said, “I wrote [it] about a really good friend of mine who killed himself a couple of years ago.” CH Via the song, “Kevin addresses his friend directly about the suicide and laments his failure to measure up to his friend in terms of friendship.” EB From a recording standpoint, KG says, “There’s not production on it;” CH indeed, “the only musical accompaniment is a simple piano sequence with some sparse guitar work in the chorus.” EB
“Gilbert’s vision sometimes gets too dark for its own good…but the artist (and he is an artist) is so startlingly fresh and worthwhile, you’re willing to indulge the musical detours.” JRA “Thud is an overlooked album that is worthy of not just a first glance, but also of several subsequent glances.” PX This is “prog-pop heaven” JRI – “literate, adult rock that unfortunately serves as a solitary testament to Gilbert’s talent” TD since “Gilbert would die in an accidental suicide” TD a little more than a year later.