Can hips be witty? Jarvis Branson Cocker proved it last year as part of the
stellar ensemble for Come So Far for Beauty, the Leonard Cohen tribute.
Spanish handclaps, snaky stage moves, an irony in his deep and oh-so-English
voice that could come on like a taste within a single word, yet never
compromise a moment that mattered: oh yeah, Cocker caught the eye and ear
completely, the clown prince of the occasion.
If you knew Cocker's old band
Pulp, you'd already be aware of this mix of sly and heartfelt. Most people
saw Pulp's height as 1995's Different Class, one of the anthemic records
behind the Britpop phenomenon. I always preferred the darkness and
sophistication of 1998's This Is Hardcore, Cocker's mid-life pop-star crisis
record, crashing Bond theme orchestrations and Bowie glam frosts together
with pornographic confessions on his own used-up identity. Something had to
give, and it seems it was Pulp, as well as Cocker's long-term relationship at
Now married to a French stylist, and a new dad to boot, he finally
returns with a very fine solo album indeed. It resounds with booming Nancy
Sinatra ballads ("Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" was actually written for
her) and Spector-ish cathedrals of space, not to mention a brilliantly naked
sample of "Crimson & Clover" on his song "Black Magic." Much like Pulp, yes:
as the gunning guitars and bam-bam, garage-rock drums of "Fat Children"
("took my life") or the crooning piano menace of "I Will Kill Again" (his
serial murderer benignly enjoys "half a bottle of wine") variedly and
further suggest. Behind the bookish glasses and op-shop hipster image,
Cocker has always been a great storyteller, an outwardly playful satirist
with a ferocious moral vision of modern English life. Over the ambient hum
of "Quantum Theory" he sings "somewhere everyone is happy. Somewhere fish do not have bones." Strangely enough, you can feel this almost angry romantic
wants to believe it. It's probably because he really cares.