Release Date: Apr 3, 2007
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
In November 2002, Pulp took their final curtain with a compilation album called Hits. It featured opaque sleevenotes from novelist Harland Miller and one last new song, Last Day of the Miners' Strike, that sketched out the trajectory of the early stages of Pulp's 21-year career against pithy recollections of life in the 80s. Hits would have counted as a well thought-out, enormously dignified coda to the career of one of the 90s' best-loved bands if it hadn't struggled to No 71 for one week, then immediately dropped out of the charts.
Always a sharp student of pop, Jarvis Cocker's solo debut -- simply, cleanly titled Jarvis on the cover, not so simply called The Jarvis Cocker Album in the liner notes -- unmistakably hearkens back to '70s solo debuts from singers who have just stepped away from their bands, whether it's in the terrific washed-out artwork or in its moody contemplative feel. Given the hushed atmosphere of much of the record, it'd be easy to call this introspective, but the curious thing about Jarvis is that it never feels as personal as any of Pulp's '90s albums. Whether it was the impassioned, sex-obsessed His 'n' Hers, the bracing, biting social commentary of Different Class or the weary trawl through the heart of darkness on This Is Hardcore, Cocker's writing was as twitchy and revealing as an exposed nerve: he may have trussed up his thoughts in metaphors and filtered his feelings through narratives, but it's impossible to hear "Babies," "Common People" or "The Fear" without imagining Cocker himself as the protagonist, the central figure in each song.
Fears that incipient middle age has mellowed the misanthropy of Pulp’s ex-frontman Jarvis Cocker are allayed by his solo album. Death at the hands of bloated thugs (”Fat Children”), romantic delusion (”Baby’s Coming Back to Me”), and a chirpy rumination on evil (”From A to I”) are among his lyrical preoccupations on Jarvis. As Pulp’s ”Common People” proved, Cocker’s caustic observations cut deepest when married to hummable tunes.
Form precocious pop group; spend years trying to make it; shed art-rock pretenses; make it; attack a robed Michael Jackson on-stage, see record sales soar, have wax statue of yourself placed in London’s Rock Circus; become a cultural critic; struggle with cocaine addiction, tabloid exploitation, the specters of fame; make a couple bleak records, alienating your fan base, then put the band on hiatus; return under a wacky moniker, make guest appearances, contribute to Harry Potter soundtrack; finally, “return to form,” making an eclectic solo record with the penultimate line: “The working classes are obsolete…Let ‘em all kill each other, and get a maid overseas. ” This is the weirdly conventional story of Jarvis Cocker’s rise and fall. Jarvis, his not-quite-eponymous debut solo outing, is essentially a patchwork drawing from low and high points of his career - a quilt meant as a cover as well as an ornament.