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Jarvis Cocker
Further Complications Adrian Lobb , May 20th, 2009 11:10

Jarvis Cocker has a great solo album up his nicely cut sleeve. Can't you just almost hear it? The Scott Walker fan in him will, one day, get it together and make a classic, croony chamber pop follow-up to This Is Hardcore, but, for now, he still seems to be scratching around for a sound.

His debut solo release, Jarvis, promised much but delivered little more than a few pleasant, radio-friendly plodders and (snicker), thanks to bonus track 'Cunts Are Still Running The World', a sweary sing-along stating the bleedin' obvious. While it picked up positive reviews, a pristine polish had replaced the lick of lipgloss that was applied to Pulp's finest moments.

Bringing in Steve Albini to twiddle the knobs and recording it live at the producer's Electrical Audio studio in Chicago ensures the AOR sheen is largely stripped away for his third post-Pulp long-player (if we include the silly, pseudonymed sleazepop of Relaxed Muscle).

Perhaps it's not surprising that Jarvis has been looking across the pond for inspiration - after all, he's the one who has been telling all and sundry that a Conservative government is inevitable in the UK. Further Complications kicks off with a very welcome vitality. The title track suggests that while he's been holed up in Paris, Jarvis has been listening to some New York post punk. Recalling Television's 'Friction', Jarvis spits: "I needed addiction, I needed affliction – to cultivate a personality."

Typically, the album is packed with quotable couplets, and, lyrically, is streets ahead of his last outing. "I met her in the museum of paleontology, and I make no bones about it. / If you wish to study dinosaurs, I know a specimen whose interest is undoubted," he whisper-sings, on 'Leftovers', a laidback and somewhat slightly sleazy seduction song and lament to lost youth.

The epic 'Slush', written on his eco-trip to the North Pole last year, offers Jarvis's take on the eventual outcome of global warming, while the self-deprecating country swing of 'I Never Said I Was Deep' outlines the phrase Jarvis would like on his tombstone, apparently. On 'Pilchard', a pounding Krautrock synth and guitar workout is only punctuated by occasional gasps of the song's fishy title.

In the main, Further Complications sets out to be an angsty, angry, raucous, rattling rock record. Yet only on the menacing 'Homewrecker', complete with a cartoonish saxophone extravaganza from Steve Mackay (not to be confused with bass player Steve Mackey – this is the dude who supplied sax on The Stooges' Fun House), does Jarvis's howling anger feel unforced. Oddly, it is the voice that marked him out as a unique pop talent and national treasure that is found wanting.

When stretched to his limits, as he undoubtedly is here – and for this the singer deserves credit – it becomes clear that Jarvis is not, and never has been a garage rocker, a punk rocker or a country rocker. So, while Further Complications is a clear improvement on its predecessor, it's just not great. And not great is not quite good enough from Jarvis Cocker.

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