Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reviews:: Jarvis Cocker Jarvis

Without a doubt, if you look at Britpop bands, the two that get dismissed most often are Pulp and Supergrass. Supergrass was an easier band to laugh off. They never took themselves seriously, so how could we? Pulp however is a different story. At the time, their hits just never seemed to stack up; their personalities (big glasses and the Michael Jackson mooning incident aside) never seemed to shine as brightly over here. But years later, the Supergrass and Pulp catalogues are the ones I enjoy most.

Jarvis was often overlooked as a song writer, even the token Pulp Hits CD struggled. Despite the fact he was often labeled as a mouth piece for the working class (I’m not sure I agree with that, but I’m just one voice), somehow he became a man for the people that was essentially forgotten by the people. After the rise and fall of Pulp, he toiled in the music industry as an entertainer and a hired gun, often used but never really embraced. I mean, his solo album has been out for months and despite the fact it’s great, I’ve never talked about it. Such is the career of Jarvis Cocker. People know him, but ignore his songs.

Lyrically, Jarvis has always been able to pen tales and emotions, but on his solo debut he’s managed to combine his words with pop elements that border on familiar and fresh. The result is an instant classic. Never is this more obvious than the album’s second track, Black Magic. The song is a post modern glam anthem. You can’t escape the Lou Reed influence, but could you ever picture Jarvis baritone delivering it?

It’s hard to point out the highlights on this record. I like a lot of the styles he uses, and parts of songs shine brightly (like the piano intro of the beautiful I Will Kill Again) and match Jarvis’ pen nicely. I Will Kill Again starts as a song about a normal family life. Routines. Concessions. But underneath, Cocker creates a character who admits he has the heart of a murderer. He acknowledges that the perfect world would be great, but just can’t happen. Lyrically, I think he’s at his best on Big Julie. A tale about an overweight girl trapped in a society predicated on appearance, and how she consoles herself in music.

Teaming with long time friends Steve Mackey and Richard Hawley, the music matches the darkness that seems to be the underlying theme of the record. It’s hidden among sweet sections - Baby’s Coming Back to Me - but Jarvis has some qualms with society and himself. Nestled amongst the sugary sweet plinks of From Auschwitz to Ipswitch is the fact the world is going to hell. Society is declining (apathy, police violence), and we seem to be doing little to stop it. Fat Children attacks the apathy of parents that don’t care in a punk, dance, kick-your-leg-up, guitar rollicking anthem. For the first time in a while, Jarvis words seem to be equally balanced with the notes that carry it along.

In a more matter of fact statement, the album closer – nestled 30 minutes after the last note of Quantum Theory – Jarvis quite simply alerts us to a simple, but powerful idea that "cunts are running the world." Instead of agreeing that the cream of the crop rises to the top, Cocker simply counters with the simple idea that maybe instead, "shit floats." The thought is the perfect ending to an album that is more accessible and relevant than any Pulp fan (or hater) could expect.

There are some stumbles. The Chris Martin-esque Disney Time piano ballad leaves me flat. But that being said, for a man who most thought had left his best days behind, this album is surprisingly cohesive, powerful and almost always enjoyable.

MP3:: Black Magic
Video:: Don't Let Him Waste Your Time

Posted at 2:20 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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