The Joup Friday Album: Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis

jarviscockerIt’s weird to think that we are rapidly approaching being 10 years removed from the first decade of the 21st century.  As a teen, the year 2000 seemed to be so far ahead, an exciting and unknowable future, and now it’s been left long behind in the proverbial dust.  I can only assume that the cultural and historical significance of that decade will begin to bubble over in essays, thinkpieces, and documentaries in the coming years, its influence slowly creeping into modern art, music, literature, and such.  But for me, it’s kind of hard to pin down what the 00’s were all about…well, musically at least.

Maybe we’re still too close to adequately gage what the music from 2000 to 2009 means, but even then, I can’t think of any real significant musical force that might define that decade in the way that grunge or gangsta rap did for the 1990’s, and so on.  I suppose that the ascent of the internet and our ever advancing technology has sped everything up so fast, that no real scene has the time to take root and grow, or cement its consequence.  For some reason, that’s kind of upsetting to me, but it’s also quite possible that I just don’t have the same affinity for that era of music (even the great stuff) that someone 10 years my junior would have.  I’m old, and lame, and out of touch, a sentiment I feel will only grow as I get even older and lamer.

But, maybe someone can draw it out for me.

As a child and teenager of the 80’s and 90’s, the music from those decades, as well as the eras before, seem like they can be written out in an almost linear timeline, the different popular movements and scenes easily marked from birth to early influence to cultural dominance to decline and then revival.  I know a lot of that comes from the benefit of having years of hindsight for examination and reflection, and from the warm glow of nostalgia injecting a fondness within us for all things days of yore.  But I swear, people were getting nostalgic for the 90’s before that decade was even over, artists and listeners alike going back to the old wells to revisit and reinterpret sounds we grew up with.  Those same sounds are coming at us fast and hard now as the kids discover these 20-year old sonic nuggets much in the same way as we (read: 30 and 40-somethings) discovered the music of the 1970’s 20 years prior.  And it’s all kind of fascinating, hearing these old synthy and smoky R&B notes or crunchy grunge riffs resurface completely repurposed by a new batch of artists.  It makes me curious as to what will come next.  Or what will become of the old guard.

I’m anxiously awaiting a GOOD Britpop revival.

Once a prominent scene, even shaking up the oft rigid and ugly musical preferences of the US, Britpop reigned supreme throughout the mid-1990’s, gradually dissipating at the decade’s conclusion, and then into memory as the 2000’s began in earnest.  That next decade was kind of a strange one for all of those artists and former tabloid stars.  Blur fell apart, and Damon Albarn began exploring hip-hop and dance music with Gorillaz.  Oasis put out a string of records with diminishing returns before the brothers Gallagher finally called it quits.  The Verve broke up (again), reunited for a new album (again), and then broke up (again).  Suede singer Brett Anderson and former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler came together for a new project called The Tears…which sounded a whole lot like Suede.  And so many other artists either called it a day, or strived on despite a decline in popularity.

And all of this finally brings us to The Joup Friday Album, Jarvis, the 2006 solo effort from former Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker.

In one incarnation or another, Pulp was around for almost 25 years, a project that Cocker started as a teenager in the late 70’s before finally coming into prominence during the Britpop boom of the 90’s.  Having a few years on all of his contemporaries gave Cocker a kind of elder statesman reputation which added a certain gravitas to Pulp’s output, be it the societal deconstruction of Different Class, the cocaine comedown of This Is Hardcore, or the return to nature on We Love Life.  But, just like their contemporaries, Pulp kind of sputtered out at the beginning of the millennium too, disbanding in 2002 and venturing into the brave new world.

Cocker kept busy, working on a number of different projects, collaborating with Charlotte Gainsbourg, fronting a wizard band in a Harry Potter movie, and even voicing an animated character for Wes Anderson.  And in 2006, he reteamed with fellow former Pulp member Steve Mackey to record and release the wonderful and official solo debut Jarvis.

A collection of classic pop compositions, Jarvis sounds like the culmination of Cocker’s entire career, drawing from the artist’s innumerable influences to create something ultimately timeless and accessible, but still completely Jarvis Cocker.  The album features quirky, hummable love songs originally penned for Nancy Sinatra (“Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” and “Baby’s Coming Back to Me”), a killer Tommy James sample* worked to wondrous effect (“Black Magic”), and a woeful ode to the complacent evil of mankind (“From Auschwitz to Ipswich”).  On the piano ballad “I Will Kill Again,” Cocker pines for a normal and peaceful life until the sinister, yet somehow unmenacing refrain comes in, like some sociopath’s lament.  And “Disney Time” pairs its down tempo melody with haunting strings and ugly lyrics to divine and uneasy effect.  There is an undercurrent of darkness throughout the entirety of Jarvis, even on the most straightforward and poppiest of tracks.  Cynicism and pessimism abound in Cocker’s cheeky wordplay and world weary observation, casting shadows over each song.  The world is an ugly place, and we are its ugly inhabitants.  But for the briefest of moments on the record’s closing, somber track “Quantum Theory,” he lets in a shred of light that maybe things can get better someday:

Somewhere everyone is happy
Somewhere fish do not have bones
Somewhere gravity cannot reach us anymore
Somewhere you are not alone.

But we’re not done yet.  A relic of the CD age, Jarvis has a bonus track.  Appearing as an extra 7” on the vinyl release and as one of those songs you have to fast-forward through 30 minutes of silence to get to on the CD, “Running the World” carries the same cynical narrative as much of the rest of the album, but it just doesn’t quite fit in tonally or sonically with what precedes it.  It is catchy though.  And it’s a fun and biting sneer of a political song that crassly calls out our elected leaders and financial overlords as the dimwitted and soulless monsters that they are.  Sadly, this song still has much resonance today.

Jarvis continues to make great music, sometimes even with Pulp here or there, and all of it is worthy of your time, money, and consideration.  But today, let’s listen to Jarvis, and mockingly fume about the sour state of all things.  As per usual, if you like what you hear, get out there and support the artist.

And here’s the album’s bonus track.

And as an added bonus, here’s Nancy Sinatra singing “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time.”

Let’s hear from Daniel next week.  It’s been a while.

 

 

*It’s “Crimson and Clover.”

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

2 Responses to The Joup Friday Album: Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis
  1. Chester Whelks Reply

    No Britpop revival on the horizon, though I thought you’d like to know (if you didn’t already) that Paul Draper is sounding like he’s never been away: https://youtu.be/vSxrOf72b_M

    • Tommy Reply

      I loved Mansun, and had no idea Draper had a solo record on the way. Thanks for the heads up!

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