Retired Pulp frontman and emeritus nerd heartthrob Jarvis Cocker returns with a new album to seduce adventurous listeners: Room 29, a collaboration with Canadian composer Chilly Gonzales. This concept album opens onto Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, where the rich and famous have long indulged their decadences as both escape from and service to the Hollywood celebrity machine. More accurately, the album adopts the perspective of the titular room, as our suave medium Jarvis narrates (in vocals both spoken and sung) Tinseltown scandals that once transpired inside its walls.
The album’s release on classical music label Deutsche Grammophon clues you in that Room 29 is no Britpop hurrah. Chilly Gonzales’ piano and occasional string section create an intimate and romantic soundtrack to Jarvis Cocker’s vocals, resulting in something between a cabaret performance and a radio drama (the latter a format Jarvis has considerable experience in). This is ultimately an experimental album for Jarvis, Hollywood history comprising terra incognita for this bard of post-industrial northern English boredom, although Pulp fans may recognize a familiar theme of voyeurism. Room 29 relocates Cocker’s wit and erudition into an expressive context that’s more sophisticated and vulnerable than Pulp’s default smirk. Indulge in its decadence with this live performance (filmed for the Nowness video channel).
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.