Okay. I got the new Jarvis Cocker album, Further Complications, on the day it came out. Because I loved his first solo record, Jarvis, that much. But here’s the thing: Further Complications is bad. It’s really bad. I got rid of it (thank you, Second Spin) and I’ve decided to put it behind me. I know Cocker will come back with something better in the future and I’m willing to let this little mishap slide.
Why am I letting Jarvis Cocker off so easy? I mean, I could rip him a new ass for Further Complications. I’m known, where I’m known, for being really good at not liking things and it would be easy to pelt Cocker with a thousand words of fury. But I’m not going to do that because I really fucking like Jarvis Cocker. A lot. He is a genuinely awesome musical misanthrope and pretty much everything he’s done prior to Further Complications has been excellent. After polishing off the 1990s with This is Hardcore, Pulp (I assume that, if you read Bollocks!, you know Jarvis Cocker was in Pulp. If you didn’t know that, you do now) started off the 21st century with We Love Life and then broke up so Cocker could release a solo album that still makes me exceedingly happy (Jarvis features, among its many gems, a song about being murdered by morbidly obese kids and “Running the World,” one of the greatest songs of the decade, in my opinion). So I can pretend that Further Complications never happened because I know how consistently great Jarvis Cocker has been in the past and I have faith that he’ll return to greatness in the (hopefully near) future.
Did I forget to mention a little Pulp album called Different Class? It appears that I did. Let’s talk about it for a second, can we? If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have anything better to do. So: in 1995, when Britpop was still a (sort of) legitimate musical genre, Pulp released the snarky-as-fuck Different Class, an album that is musically a pop masterpiece and lyrically a class warrior’s wet dream. Cocker looked around at the comfortable British middle class and decided that they could all just fuck right off as far as he was concerned (a theme that continued right up through “Running the World,” where Cocker mutters, “Though in theory, I respect your right to exist/ I will kill ya if you move in next to me”). Different Class has no time for social graces and no interest in cushioning the blow – right out of the gate, Cocker shouts, “We want the things you won’t allow us” and he’s just getting warmed up.
Different Class contains some of Pulp’s biggest hits, and perhaps their biggest is “Common People,” arguably one of the best songs of the 1990s (like maybe top five. Or top three. Or top one). “Common People” chronicles the adventures of a beautiful, young, rich girl who makes the mistake of telling Jarvis Cocker that she wants to do “whatever common people do.” Is Cocker setting up a straw man (or woman in this case) to knock down for the next five minutes? Absolutely. But is the sentiment of the song inaccurate because of it? I don’t think so – the line “If you called your dad/ he could stop it all” rings true for a lot of kids I went to college with, whether or not they came from Greece and had a thirst for knowledge. And the song’s underlying assertion that people born into privilege end up in the gutter far less than those who are born into poverty is completely evident, unless you view capitalism through the thickest rose-colored glasses you can find (and even then, come on). If George W. Bush wasn’t born into the Bush family – say he was born into my family – he would be working the night shift at a McDonald’s right now, maybe climbing his way up to district manager in a few years. If he was really lucky. And, lest I be accused of partisanship, the same is probably true of Patrick Kennedy. Paris Hilton would be either a c-list porn star or a herpes-riddled ho on the streets of Los Angeles (I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive) if she wasn’t born rich. She didn’t earn shit and people like her are one hundred percent deserving of the scorn of Jarvis Cocker and pretty much everyone else.
Different Class is riddled with fuck-the-system idealism that is completely shattered by the time Cocker got around to making his solo debut (and really, on Pulp’s last album, We Love Life. Cocker literally views humanity as weeds on that record – but it’s gorgeous). By the time Jarvis rolled around, Cocker’s disdain wasn’t just reserved for the congenitally wealthy – it was aimed at pretty much everyone and, like George Carlin, Cocker had (has? We’ll see) a gift for hating people and making them love him for it. What makes Further Complications so disappointing is that Cocker had a good idea (make a loose, loud rock record) and couldn’t be bothered to follow through with it. It feels incomplete and uninspired and those are two things Cocker has never been before. Next time out, Cocker could marry the fuck-you tone of his previous output to the stomping rock that he attempts on Further Complications and come out with a real winner.
I believe Cocker will do it, too. I know he’s got a lot more amazing music in him. If you need inspiration, Jarvis, why not take a trip to the good ol’ U.S. of A. and stop by a Sarah Palin book signing or spend a few hours watching Glenn Beck? You’ll be back to your cheerful, misanthropic self in no time. And we’ll all love you for it. Well, I will at least.