Pulp singer goes solo on Jarvis

by Beacon Staff • April 4, 2007

During a time when girls boys and cigarettes alcohol ruled the Britpop scene in London clubs, Jarvis stood out not because of his gawky frame or haphazard dance moves.,To best understand 43-year-old Jarvis Cocker's biting, bitter and brilliant solo debut, Jarvis, it's best to look at his past with the band Pulp.

During a time when girls boys and cigarettes alcohol ruled the Britpop scene in London clubs, Jarvis stood out not because of his gawky frame or haphazard dance moves. Perhaps it was because when his big break at stardom came, he was 31, a good decade older than his peers, and had already experimented with post-punk and folk stylings.

The distance and experience served him well. Over the course of two seminal albums, 1994's His 'n' Hers and the following year's Different Class, Cocker dissected the seedier side of the time's hedonism.

He chose to focus not only on pleasurable nights, but also awkward mornings and unfulfilled feelings in his accessibly witty lyrics. Marrying pulsating synths with simple guitar parts that borrowed from both disco and Roxy Music, the two memorably merged on the hit single "Common People."

But nothing lasts forever; Cocker was always about the let-down, and it showed on This Is Hardcore, where he dissected his role as a pop star and its shortcomings. After a lackluster Pulp follow-up in 2001, Cocker has gone over the hill and become a solo performer.

But don't think he's softened over the years.

Instead, on Jarvis, the singer has his sights aimed squarely at middle-aged conventions: on the ballad "Disney Time," he opens with "how come they call them 'Adult Movies' when the only thing they show is people making babies filmed up close?" and continues to pontificate on the idealized (and perhaps pornographic) view of family life in beloved films.

He gives a more accurate description of life on "I Will Kill Again:" "Log on in the night-time / Drink a half-bottle of wine / Buy a couple of records / Look at naked girls from time to time."

Both of these subdued tracks have Jarvis trading in Pulp's disco-rock for more mellowed, mature music.

Although Cocker isn't always acting his age-listen to the propulsive "Fat Children" for proof of his eternal adolescence-he further belies it by the pop standards he chooses to reformat. Two of Jarvis' tracks, "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" and "Baby's Coming Back To Me," were written for Nancy Sinatra's 2004 come-/throwback album. He even borrows from the classic "Crimson Clover" on the cryptic "Black Magic."

Cocker occasionally stumbles; "The Loss Adjuster" excerpts are pleasant but unnecessary piano interludes that seemingly serve to bolster the track listing from 12 to 14 songs, and the plodding obese teenage revenge number "Big Julie" falls short of the rest of the album.

His sarcastic sense of humor pervades the entire release. Cocker gives written warnings "On The Use Of This Album," such as "Jarvis can be broken into convenient bite-size pieces but probably works best when swallowed whole." He has a point: in a time where iTunes single downloads rise and album sales decline, Cocker has crafted a selection of songs that work in succession.

Save for the last one, that is. On "Running the World," an abbreviation of the un-PC chorus, he offers blunt political protest, and its topical nature separates it from the preceding LP.

But his blend of old and new ultimately works, and Jarvis is an uncommonly exceptional pop album.,Byran O'Toole