tue 15/10/2019

CD: Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales - Room 29 | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales - Room 29

CD: Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales - Room 29

An atmospheric song-cycle about decadent Old Hollywood from the Pulp frontman and his buddies

A room at the Marmont - 'a comfortable venue for a nervous breakdown'

Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales’ first collaborative album is a song-cycle centred around the piano in the titular room of the Château Marmont in West Hollywood – a hotel with a reputation as something of a den of iniquity during the Roaring Twenties. Featuring cameo appearances from the likes of Jean Harlow, Howard Hughes and Clara Bow, Room 29 comes across like a stripped-down riff on Lou Reed’s classically grubby Berlin album with splashes of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill and even Noel Coward to tell the tale of the ghosts of times past in “a comfortable venue for a nervous breakdown”.

Jarvis has always been one for a bon mot or two and Room 29 has clearly spurred his infamous wit. “Life could be a bed of roses/If it wasn’t filled with so many pricks” complains “Belle Boy”, while “Tearjerker” is dispatched with “You don’t need a girlfriend/You need a social worker”. However, it’s not all catty one-liners and “Clara” and “Salomé” have something of Lou Reed’s heartbreaking concept album, even if there is more than a sniff of Joel Grey’s arch turn as the Emcee in Cabaret in Jarvis’ delivery. The musical accompaniment is largely provided by Chilly Gonzales’ sparse and understated piano with occasional tasteful strings courtesy of the Kaiser Quartet. Downbeat and mournful, it perfectly fits the atmosphere of faded decadence that colours Jarvis’ tales.

Jarvis and Chilly have form in working together, having previously covered Stephen Soundheim’s “I’m Still Here” for a short film by Todd Haynes. It is to be hoped that they can similarly develop an accompanying film for Room 29or put together a show around these musical tales and take it on the road. After all, it is full of stories of bad behaviour and insanity with a dash of voyeurism – which all sounds like a cracking night out by any measure.

Jarvis has always been one for a bon mot or two and 'Room 29' has clearly spurred his infamous wit


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.