Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications (2009)

2006’s Jarvis was a mixed bag. It is not uncommon for an album, especially a solo debut, to have a strong half and a weak one, but of these cases there are very few where the second is so clearly the one to keep. But, sure enough, after cringing one’s way through such vacuous derivative slush as “Black Magic” and “Fat Children”, respite could be found in the glorious “Big Julie” and “From Auschwitz to Ipswitch”. It seemed as if the true solo singer-songwriter voice of Jarvis Cocker had, only in the second half, really warmed up for the big event: the triumphant, idiosyncratic follow-up. It was only a matter of time.

Opener “Further Complications” bares an archetypal neo-Jarvis song title. It suggests an intricately studied exposé of our modern neuroses, the very summation of the postmodern human condition in pristine Britpop song-form. So what do we actually get? The lyrics are knowingly quotable- so much so that I won’t actually dignify them with quotation. Though undeniably clever, you can almost hear Cocker arranging them into couplets of “Nod” and “Wink”. Musically? On paper, it’s a great idea- a bile-spewing barrage of noise. It is, sadly, killed in execution, becoming a stilted rocker in the “Fat Children” vein- i.e one that doesn’t actually rock… at all. Where Cocker’s seedy, controlled delivery once added fire to some of Pulp’s weaker numbers, it is now thin, tired and arch. “Black Magic” may have been boring, but this is actually irritating. On most of the album’s rockers, it seems as if cheap lipgloss sheen that once made Jarvis shine in Pulp has dulled and somehow sounds even cheaper. This man was not born to be a garage rocker- as proven in edge-less noise instrumental “Pilchard”.

Even the most cynical of us, however, would be hard-pressed to suppress the smile brought on by the extended pun of “I met her/In the museum of Paleontology/And I make no bones about it/I said, ‘If you wish to study dinosaurs…’” that opens “Leftovers”. The aimless 6+ minute ‘song’ is kept afloat by charming analogies such as “I’m like a vampire/That faints at the sight of blood”. The luck continues on the theatrical “I Never Said I Was Deep”- and that’s when it hits you: he’s done it again.

Though less clear-cut than on Jarvis, there is another sheer divide between the good and the utterly banal. There’s a definite trade-off with the last album- the good is never as unimpeachable as “Big Julie”, but the loose experimentation takes matters in undeniably exciting directions. Final track “You’re in my Eyes” begins like a weird piece of Rauschenberg-esque pre-pop art, opening with a pristine disco arrangement obscured by strange, swooping art-noise, before bursting through in 70s style for a good 6 minutes, until finally becoming engulfed within a god-awful electronic drone. An essential moment.

While Cocker claims in the title track that he was “Three weeks late/coming out of the womb”, this effort sounds achingly premature- some songs are just sketches in need of fleshing out (I’m looking at you, “Angela”). Another hit-and-miss affair that I can’t help but recommend.


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