[sic] Magazine

Jarvis Cocker – Brighton Dome – 16 June 2009

Being the second greatest living Englishman is a blessing and a curse. After Pulp puttered to a close in 2002, Jarvis Cocker quietly retreated to Paris and – bar a quiet and obtuse period fronting the deliberately weird Relaxed Muscle – vanished from view.

After a largely low-key debut, Jarvis returned with ‘Further Complications’: a fine, but individual album, which neither reinvents the wheel, nor does anything new, radical or exciting. Whilst, at this stage in what you could call a career, Jarvis is a man in his own orbit, following his own muse, and largely unconcerned with such vagaries as popularity: after all, not having a boring office job is a success in itself, isn’t it?

Landscape Jarvis

So…. with a new record that barely troubled the charts, and a distinct absence of any interest in his current work, Jarvis has become a cult figure, an instantly recognisable parody. Think of it, as you may, as equivalent to Morrissey’s wilderness years: an artist without portfolio travelling to his constituency or faithful and loyal followers. Opening with the spiky ‘Pilchard’ – a four minute instrumental that sees Jarvis kung-fu fighting his way across the stage, it’s a good hour before Jarvis performs any material from his first solo record – the palpable sense of relief there’s an ‘oldie’; and by ‘oldie’ I mean something from his 2006 solo debut, for there’s no sign of any Pulp song in tonight’s set (despite his fluent performance of Pulp material on recent TV shows) – requires that the audience are ultimately waiting for a moment that never arrives

What is baffling is the complete absence of even the vaguest hint of consideration regarding what other people would like to hear. I have applauded artists who consistently follow their own path, but not at the purpose of being deliberately obscure or perversely single-minded. After all, the Pulp songs aren’t so bad? Admittedly, if it becomes some kind of Ersatz, pathetic covers band ripping through 3/4’s 20 year old songs, it would be a worthless nostalgia trip, but the insistence on pretending 1983-2003 never existed is a trifle baffling.

Green Party

Cockers band are tight, and fluid. The songs themselves, new, and newer, are fun, witty, dark and light, silly and serious, and above all, worth hearing repeatedly. There’s no sense of an apologetic ‘Will This Do Until the Hits?’ approach.

But the night suffers from an absence of anything memorable. ‘Don’t Let His Waste Your Time’, ‘Fat Children’ and a rapturous ‘Black Magic’ are digested with an enthusiasm. Even the tiny-selling, vinyl only b-side ‘Big Stuff’ is greeted with some keenness. (Even though there are more people here tonight than own the song).

Purple Haze

Jarvis himself is in fine fettle. I could actually watch him talk all night with no sign of a moment of music. And frankly, if the bits between the songs are more enjoyable than the music the musician makes, the night must be, by some standard, not entirely successful. Jarvis is a great man, who writes unique and interesting material, but his determinedly modernist approach in neglecting his – and our – past is doing him no favours at all.



Further Complications

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