“It takes a special kind of genius to combine broad stylistic range with a distinct artistic vision, and then execute it with total commitment. I don’t know if Neal is in fact named after the Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan, but it sure seems like he should be.” –The Daily Vault
The eclecticism of Gilbert Neal might suggest a changeling, or a dilettante, or maybe a jack of all trades. But such a characterization would miss the mark. Neal is more curious than distracted, more inquisitive than restless. In his mastery of rock, funk, folk, blues, jazz, and even musical theatre, he embodies the modern pop artist: an intrepid tourist of styles.
After releasing four albums independently, Neal created his 2016 Wampus debut, The Mayor of Estes Park, by raising every bar, from songwriting to performance to arrangements. From existential funk to plaintive wit to loopy joy, he grabbed with hooks and grooves, pranks and koans. Swinging from the mainstream to the fringe, he was earnestly sincere one minute and brutally sardonic the next.
Then, in an epoch of budding cultural collapse, he issued the bittersweet and unsparing follow-up, Mistakes of Memory. Relying on his mastery of musical theatre and zeal for classic prog, Neal crafted a narrative of longing and disconnection, a timeless pop curio that recalled nothing so much as the adventurousness of ‘70s rock. Yet the funky and mordant “Claudius,” a parable of American leadership circa 2020, placed Mistakes firmly in the glare of its moment, and positioned Neal as an artist to watch amid chaos and change.
Now, in the wake of a pandemic that waxes and wanes but never quite vacates, Neal delivers the provocative and bitingly personal I’ll See You When I See You, an obliquely passionate salvo that feels alien yet warmly familiar. On one level, it maps the dissolution of a (virtual? long-distance?) romantic entanglement. On another, it explores the mystery and dread framing the global perception of Russian culture.
As always, Neal refracts the depth and diversity of his influences: Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd, ELO, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Stephen Sondheim.
“All my albums touch on religion, sex, age, and hope,” he says. “I treat them all like musicals.”
I’ll See You When I See You comes out May 20, 2022.