british-frontmen-jarvis-cocker.jpg

Superficially Deep

By Caspar Salmon | Music | June 10, 2009 | Comments ()

By Caspar Salmon | Music | June 10, 2009 |


british-frontmen-jarvis-cocker.jpg


furthercomplications.jpgJarvis Cocker: Further Complications
[Rough Trade]

The better one of the two J. Cockers is releasing his second solo album right now, and as is customary with all his efforts, Further Complications has been labelled 'Wildean' by the musical press. Thanks for that. What the journos - who presumably haven't read any Oscar Wilde - mean is that the dude occasionally writes a funny lyric and he wears flouncy shirts. Guess who's not Wildean either? Morrissey. Another band that's not Wildean: The Divine Comedy. I could go on. You get a little tired of all the shorthands in the musical press, but I would just like to clarify right now that Oscar Wilde's wit had a very particular tone to it that was incredibly subversive of Victorian England, in which irony and paradox were used to attack the very fundament of polite society. The same can not be said of Jarvis Cocker, whose blunt, dry jokes about sex are worthy of a minor chuckle at the best of times.

Take this one, from the song 'Leftovers', which has had everybody dying of laughter over here in Britain: "I met her in the Museum of Palaeontology/ And I make no bones about it". Funny, eh? No? Sorry, let me explain the joke: there are bones in a museum of palaeontology, so he's alluding to that when he uses the expression 'make no bones', which is funny, because, er, there are bones in a museum of palaeontology. Get it? Hmm? Bones!!

Other clangers you can expect to sigh at over the course of the album include "He loves you like a sister/I guess that's relative" and "I never said I was deep/But I am profoundly shallow." The only joke I enjoyed on the album comes on 'Caucasian Blues', and it goes: "I heard it said/That you're hung like a white man". Again, it's not exactly The Importance of Being Earnest, but it's quite amusing in context.

Of course, the lack of zingers would be nothing if the music itself were startlingly good - and you know there's a huge BUT coming here. But: in trading pop for rock, Jarvis has done himself a disservice, and most everything here sounds incredibly meat-headed and dull. Song after song comes with a huge, droning guitar backbone that entirely strips these songs of any charm they might have once had. Even getting Steve Albini on board to produce doesn't leaven the stodginess of this cod-rock mess. There's a muscular bass break-down on the title track, and 'Angela' and 'Fuckingsong' (get a load of that wit!) are completely drowned out by a horrifically fuzzy guitar riff. I understand Cocker was going for a Stooges/Roxy Music kind of sound. What it ends up like is a not very good Destroyer album, with mere hints of Roxy in the synth, and vocals like David Bowie crossed with Tim Curry. And what can I say about 'Pilchard'? There are no words on it! None! It's just a bit of moaning against a backdrop of keyboards, jabs of guitar and insistent drums. It's very uninspiring and certainly not what you come to Jarvis for. And then there's 'Homewrecker!', on which I don't think he's using the cliché ironically. It's mad as a bag of snakes, with scratchy guitar and huge brass, sounding lamentably like Madness.

My favourite moments - which were few - came on 'I Never Said I Was Deep', which is a bitter kiss-off song featuring a few light moments in the instrumentation - a few woozy guitars, reminiscent of 'Razzmatazz', and some Beatles-ish backing vocals. 'Hold Still' worked for me because it ended on the line "You're everything to me", which came across as sincere and touching after all the fuck-rock posturing. 'Caucasian Blues' is derivative and over-produced, and 'Slush' is boring, and the 8-minute-plus closer 'You're In My Eyes (Discosong)' sounds like white funk, with wah-wah guitar, brass, and cheesy backing vocals. Oh god, it's really bad.

I don't know why Cocker has so completely eschewed any lighter touches in favour of by-numbers rock. Surely if people want bonehead rock they can head to Kasabian or some such? I think it's because he's working out his anger after the break-up of his marriage - but that's no excuse for inflicting pain on the rest of us. Anyway, this is a very dull, very commonplace album, and one I hope Cocker will distance himself from in the future.

Caspar likes books, music and films, and would never be described as "enigmatic." Read more about him at his blog, Straight Outta Crouch End.



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