Release Date: May 19, 2009
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Perhaps it was inevitable that Jarvis Cocker would find no peace in domesticity. It may have treated him well for a brief period, resulting in the quite brilliant mature pop of his 2006 solo debut, but no other pop star has been as singularly sex-obsessed as Jarvis, so it was just a matter of time before his attentions wandered elsewhere. .
Further Complications is the second proper solo record from Jarvis Cocker since disbanding his long-time outfit Pulp around 2002, and it ranks among the very best output of his career. Eleven tracks of surprisingly forceful rock from a man more known for a sonorous mumble than rock and roll screams, it’s easily Cocker’s most satisfying album since 1998’s This Is Hardcore. Turning up the volume on his band, courtesy of producer Steve Albini, seems to have been just what Cocker needed to shake off enough ennui to write and record a charmingly lecherous album about being terribly beset with ennui.
The news that Jarvis Cocker’s new album was to be produced by Steve Albini was definitely one of those moments that prick the interest. It’s not exactly a solution to the problems in the Middle East, but nonetheless, it was intriguing to imagine how Albini’s fastidious rock preferences would work with Cocker’s romantic posturing, or vice versa. Well, firstly, as you’d expect from anything Albini is involved in, the production on the ex-Pulp man's second solo album Further Complications is technically excellent.
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker recently promoted this second solo CD by providing the musical accompaniment for some yoga classes in Paris. But there’s not much about Further Complications that would encourage you to do the downward dog. Indeed, the raucousness of ”Homewrecker!” or the title track will come as a definite surprise to longtime Cocker watchers, though not necessarily a bad one.
If you fought in the Britpop Wars of the mid-1990s, you’ll know there was much more depth than the media-constructed Blur vs. Oasis feud. Supergrass, Ash and Saint Etienne all played their part but at the cultural coalface, just behind Albarn and the brothers Gallagher was our Jarv. The thing is, Pulp were never a Britpop band, not really.
The madcap video for "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" off of Jarvis Cocker's 2006 solo debut had our square-framed hero playing world's worst taxi driver while giving a young lady some sage advice. "Cause the years fly by in an instant, and you wonder what he's waiting for," he offers. "Then some skinny bitch walks by in some hot pants and he's running out the door." While the one-time Britpop sex god was almost definitely speaking from experience, the song took on a professorial tone.
What's eating Jarvis Cocker? On the sleeve of his second solo album, he's slumped, upside down, on the floor. He sports a beard of midlife crisis proportions. Manning the studio is Steve Albini, the sonic fundamentalist who prefers to say he "records" albums rather than "produces" them. And what to make of the title being in quotation marks? For this fastidious wordsmith, it surely signifies something.
After his debut solo album, Jarvis, stalled at No 37, the former Pulp frontman may have given up on trying to connect with the Common People. The follow-up unfashionably recruits grunge producer Steve Albini to craft a whirl through Cocker's youthful passions - Roxy Music, the Stooges and matters carnal. Some of the songs are too familiar - Caucasian Blues owes too much to the Rolling Stones' 19th Nervous Breakdown - while the lyrics of songs such as Homewrecker! may resonate more with recent divorcees than the old Pulp army of indie kids and fashionistas.
What influenced ex-Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker - he of the smart, cutting lyrics and tweed jackets - to take direction from producer Steve Albini - he of abrasive alt-rock - for his disappointing second solo album? [rssbreak] Was it Albini's band Rapeman, or perhaps his work with Flogging Molly? It's hard to say, but it's easy to spot the failures of such a pairing. Cocker doesn't know what to do over fuzzy, big-beat alt, often opting for cathartic noises instead of actual singing. His brilliant, whispery, Gainsbourgh-like vocal delivery is replaced by base shouting, his hilarious wordplay reduced to grating, beat-poet-like observations.
Jarvis Cocker Depending on whom you talk to, Jarvis Cocker is best understood by non-Britons who remain fascinated at a distance by his absurd, fragile, pompous, witty, overwrought rock songs, or by the English, who are a little sick of him. The former singer of Pulp, one of England’s big rock bands in the 1990s, Mr. Cocker is on an unlikely hot streak in middle age.