Hidious Men, Glorious Music.

Kaviar, The Kaviar Sessions (Gilbert Properties Partnership, 2002)

by Chris Vreeland

Man in a forest away from man
The leafage lay low greenjoy engrossing like a cloud
reaches into the noon and spreads a black choir
Dream steps down from a chessboard sky and conducts
the oratorio certain to bare the love of man a ball of snakes
All man is ONE in this sad
inharmonious weird predicament

-- Gregory Corso, excerpted from All Life is a Rotary Club

In 1999 David Foster Wallace published a book entitled Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. The book is a series of character sketches written as short-stories. Some of them are a series of fictitious interviews with men who under mask of anonimity admit their perversions to the interviewer.

All of the characters in Wallace's book are deeply flawed in one way or another, and the work seeks to probe these flaws in the modern male psyche in a new and interesting way.

In 1996, Kevin Gilbert died in the middle of making an album with largely the same purpose. Most of the songs on Kaviar are character sketches, dealing largely with men whose sexual and relational hang-ups appear to bring grief and dismay to the women around them. In short, a deep probing of the dark side of male sexuality. 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.

From the Sultan of Brunei, who uses his billions to lure women into what could be fantasyland, or what could be slavery, to the disingenuous blind date, who spews mushy platitudes, all the while scheming his twisted plans, the characters here run the gamut of bad seeds. Even the one cover on the album successfully twists Iggy Pop's "Fall in Love With Me" into a fantasy of drooling obsession.

There's a bravado here though, an in-your-face sarcasm that really packs a wallop. To call a record testosterone-laced these day would be the worst cliche, but the music behind Gilbert's dark lyrics is some of the most muscular, aggressive rock to come out of L.A. in recent memory. The music celebrates masculinity while the lyrics simultaneously expose it's unseemly underbelly.

Through it all though, you can tell that humor was a driving force, and they must have had a great laugh while they were writing the material. The liner notes, written by bassist Paul Ill recount what a fantastically good time they had making the record, and how one day, the mastermind, Gilbert, simply failed to show up. "Against the odds, against convention and against the tides of the times, we stood defiant, sometimes in rubber, laughing our asses off, playing the most gratifying music any of us had ever played."

And with Gilbert at the recording and mixing helm, this album simply sounds fantastic. His two previous self-produced and recorded works, Thud and The Shaming of the True, are highly regarded as works of technical genious, but in my opinion, Kaviar eclipses them both in the quality of the recording. You almost can't play it too loud. If I were to write a top-ten list for 2002, this one would top that list.

Make sure the kids are asleep though, as this one is rated X. Gilbert and the members of Kaviar pulled nary a punch here in delivering a ground-breaking work-- the bonus track (unlisted in the running order) is not for the prudish. Ripping apart and reconstructing the mind of modern man is not a task that can be undertaken with prudery. The ball of snakes is there for all to see.

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