Jarvis Cocker has mellowed. The man who used to wage war on the “Common People” now concerns himself with domestic hobbies. His caustic analysis of the British class system has been replaced with a seemingly insatiable desire for some totty. In Pulp’s early days this desire was already apparent, but it was washed out by Cocker’s stronger sounds of distaste toward the UK as a country. It’s a long running theme of his work, carried across to his solo debut in 2006, Jarvis. That the sole hidden track was entitled “Cunts Are Still Running The World” was a sure sign that Cocker couldn’t curb his razor sharp tongue. Make no mistake however, this isn’t the Jarvis that wrote “I Spy”, the twisted tale of a lower class man’s revenge on a higher class member by violating his wife. The carnal desire spreads its influence over the whole of Further Complications, but his domestic lifestyle has taken the edge off …
He has adopted what you could call “self-control”. Let’s not forget, this is the guy who ran on stage in protest of Michael Jackson’s messianic performance at the BRIT Awards in 1996. “My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christ-like figure with the power of healing …,” said Cocker.
He had balls, and walked the walk to back them up.
His sophomore solo effort, Further Complications, opens accordingly. The titular track is a glorious declaration of change, and a promise delivered. A number of fans had envisioned bigger things for Cocker after his public retirement, which his first solo album lacked. With grumblings that Cocker could be the next John Peel, his second attempt conveys the fire in his belly needed to produce something marvelous.
In April, Cocker announced the divorce from his wife, “on amicable terms.” However, this record would argue against that statement. The pure rage of songs like “Homewrecker” suggest there was more boiling beneath the surface of the couple’s split. Lead single “Angela” is far more middle of the road than I had anticipated, but that’s not to take away from it’s wily lyrics, “And she’s nearly 23/Making four-fifty an hour/Complimentary shower/They call her Angela”.
It’s difficult not to warm to Jarvis, running cripplingly low on self-esteem, now outfitted with a disheveled mid-life crisis beard and the same tweed jacket. “I Never Said I Was Deep” is 90’s songwriting at its best, blurring the line between what was then and what is now. In a world that is constantly changing, it’s refreshing to see that Jarvis has changed very little, in relative terms at least.
However, the album does have its share of flaws. First and foremost, the melodic elements of the music are fairly poor, but those were never the reasons for Cocker’s and Pulp’s successes. Respectively, they always had something meaningful to say, whether or not one agreed with it. “Caucasian Blues” or “Fuckingsong”, where Cocker spits the words, are the essential running social commentary. His voice is fragile, an instrument of lyrical delivery rather than the focus of the music itself. “Leftovers” opens with the brilliant couplet, “I met her in the museum of paleontology/And I make no bones about it.”
Interestingly, he has rewarded his band by allowing them to partake in the song writing process, and the influence is huge. This is gnarly, gritty rock music, which offers ample distraction from the intricacies of his character. It’s well orchestrated, and it seems Cocker has finally seen how important his backing band are to his success. They consistently take the musical focus off of him and allow Cocker to do what he does best – write songs and lyrics. The fuzzy guitars and hard rock pedigree are a huge departure for this man, but he remains the same man. With wit, lyricism and charm, Cocker will win you over.