In the second part of my series on modern rock frontmen growing amusing beards, we review former Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker’s recently released Further Complications, a follow-up to his solo debut, simply titled Jarvis. Surely the man who brought us the Britpop anthem ‘Common People’ has some more music left in him. This time around, Steve Albini of Surfer Rosa and In Utero fame joins the fray as producer.
As a whole, the album seems to be preoccupied with rocking out. I’m not normally averse to some good riffage, but Jarvis Cocker’s strength has always been as a lyricist and storyteller. The sludgy rockers present on this album tend to drown out Jarvis’ vocals, diminishing their effect. The leadoff single ‘Angela’, is particularly guilty of this. That damn riff completely overpowers the rest of the song. Combined with the repeated chorus, it seems to be lacking the sophistication I’ve come to expect from Mr. Cocker. The title track and ‘Homewrecker!’ perform a slightly better balancing act between the straight-up rock and witty lyricism, but something about ‘Angela’ just irks me. Perhaps I watch too much of The Office?
The album fares best on the slower tracks when Jarvis has some breathing room to enter his patented sleazy/seductive/confessional mode, as on album stand-out ‘I Never Said I Was Deep’. I have always thought that if you are going to use a metaphor, you should make it slightly ridiculous. “If every relationship is a two-way street, I have been screwing in the back whilst you drive” certainly passes with flying colours. The closing track, ‘You’re in My Eyes (Discosong)’ is another highlight. The summery, 70’s vibe suggested within the parentheses makes this track particularly refreshing.
I often get myself into these situations with artists I’ve followed for a long time. If they do something different, I pine for times gone by, but when they stick with the usual stuff I find myself disinterested. That’s not to say this is a bad album, far from it, but the harder edge is a little jarring. Perhaps subverting expectations was the goal, if so, mission accomplished.
After the break, witness the beardless Jarvis Cocker in the video for ‘Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time’ from his first solo album.