Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
Britpop was a strange spell for music in Blighty. At the time it seemed like a wonderful celebration of a new dawn in the country – unapologetic and exciting. Looking back though, it was actually narcissistic, coke-fuelled and wrapped in hideously brash lad-culture. However, while the likes of Blur and Oasis disappeared up their own arses during this time, there was one band whose album (Different Class) connected perfectly with the life of the underdog, the indie underclass who avoided Loaded in favour of Melody Maker. It shouldn’t have been surprising that Pulp came out of that era with more credit than most. They had already been around for donkeys’ years and, in Jarvis Cocker, had a captivating frontman who wrote stories that were gritty, witty and true. While others concerned themselves with big houses in the country, Pulp’s world was one of bedsits with piss-stained lifts.Over a decade on, Cocker is still telling such stories, now as a solo artist. His first album, The Jarvis Cocker Record, went down a storm with critics, so it is with much excitement (especially to a reviewer like me who considers the man close to Godlike) that Further Complicationslands. Despite looking beardy and distinguished on the cover, the album takes on a raucous, occasionally Stooges-esque direction. Fitting to this reproach, legendary grunge producer Steve Albini was brought on board. Anyone who knows about Albini will be aware that crashing drums and big guitars are part of his game-plan, while vocals stay low down in the mix.
And, if there is a problem with Further Complications, it lies here. Rather than being complimented by the turned-up-to-eleven sound, Cocker’s genius wordplay is often drowned out, as he finds himself yelling just to be heard. While I’m sure songs like Pilchard and Angela will be fantastic fun played live with Cocker shuffling his gangly frame across the stage, all arms, legs and glasses, on record they just seem to lack the nuances that make him such a revered songwriter. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the album’s high points all occur when the noise abates (and the sax solos are nowhere to be heard), like the beautiful Leftovers, which is a love song that perhaps falls closest to his This Is Hardcore-era Pulp days. Viced by reality, yet painfully fragile, he croons: “Trapped in a body that is failing me/Well, please allow me to be succinct/I wanna love you whilst we both still have flesh upon our bones/Before we both become extinct.” There is more gorgeous wordplay on I Never Said I Was Deep, where he tells us, “I never said I was deep/but I am profoundly shallow/My lack of knowledge is vast/and my horizons are narrow.”When Further Complicationsis good, it’s great, and the fact that it’s slightly disappointing in places is probably just down to the high standards that Cocker has set himself. And if there is a lesson to be learnt here, it’s that when you have as much to say as Jarvis Cocker and can say it so eloquently, you shouldn’t go drowning it out. Cocker’s is a voice that needs to be heard.Review by Bobby Townsend