When you grow up in San Antonio, TX it goes without saying that you aren't exposed to much music other than tejano, classic rock and country; at least that was the case with myself in the mid-'90s. By the time I was 15, I became friends with some kids that were a little older and had cars, or at least got to borrow them from their elder siblings. On the off chance we got to use the car, sometimes we would go cruising or exploring around the city. It was one of these nights that I found my gateway into my favorite musical genre. You see, a friend of mine had found that we could pick up the Austin station 101X in his car and the music they played was nothing like we had heard before. The first three songs that we caught the station play were Suede's "Heroin," Blur's "Country House," and Pulp's "Common People." From that night on I was hooked, not only to 101X, but also to the whole Britpop movement. My favorite band, still to this day, is Pulp.
Fast-forward about seven years to when the news of Pulp's hiatus came about. I was crushed as many fans were. However, hope always remained since it was never an official split. Then, in the last two years, things started to bubble at camp Jarvis. After taking some time off for a fresh marriage and new son, Jarvis was DJing New York clubs, writing songs for films, putting compilations together and rumors of a solo album began to leak. Finally, on November 13 the UK will be treated to the formal release of Jarvis Cocker's debut solo album, simply titled Jarvis.
I once read an interview with Jarvis Cocker where he was talking about the albums before We Love Life and that many of his songs were dark, introspective tunes about himself and dealing with the superstar blues; topics ranging from pornography, growing old, panic attacks and fear of death. While those were amazing songs, there was something uplifting and mature that came out of We Love Life. The good news is that Jarvis doesn't fall short from that same upbeat philosophy that held We Love Life together. The record starts out with a twenty-seven second opener titled "Loss Adjuster (Excerpt Pt. 1)" that melts into the could-have-been-on-We Love Life anthem "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time." Yes, this sounds like it could have been a formal Pulp song with its quasi-surf-pop guitar, keys and catchy tongue in cheek lyrics ("The years fly by in an instant/and you wonder what he's waiting for/and then some skinny bitch walks by in some hot pants/and now he's running out the door"). Interestingly enough, Jarvis Cocker originally wrote this for Nancy Sinatra and it was heard on her album, Nancy Sinatra.
When "Black Magic" comes on its hard not to smile. The song has to be one of the finest on the LP, and is built on a stretched out sample of the classic Tommy James song "Crimson And Clover" and layered with whistles, bells, screeching guitars and Jarvis Cocker's amazing vocal range. He goes all out in this one bringing back classic Jarvis-isms such as "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" "Oh!" and "Ow!" thrown in at the end of the song before the rain comes in. If there had to be one monster jam on this record, well this is it. The rain carries over into "Heavy Weather," where a Rickenbacker guitar is heard throughout the cross between "Something Changed"-era Pulp and We Love Life-era respectively. Things then slow down a bit with "I Will Kill Again," a tune that tells about the day-to-day struggle we go through if we try to live our lives following the rules by the book. I find this interesting coming from a man who never really followed anyone's rules on how to live their life. The slower songs continue with "Disney Time," "From A To I," "Quantum Theory" and "Baby's Coming Back To Me," which happens to be the second song on the album written by Jarvis Cocker that appeared on the Nancy Sinatra CD as well.
The second best tune in my opinion is the relentless and punchy "Fat Children," where chugging guitars, loud kick drums and brazen lyrics slap the audience in the face. Britpop club nights are going to be spinning this one spiked in-between Morrissey and Blur without a doubt. Oh, and for all the fans out there that were worried about "Running The World" not being on the album, fear no more. It is actually included as a bonus secret track after "Quantum Theory."
For the casual listener, Jarvis could quite possibly pass as Pulp's next album but just more low key. It makes perfect sense because it is a solo effort from the frontman of the band. What I can promise you is this, after taking the time and letting the album grow on you, it will be one of those that has a lasting effect. And for a man that has been making music my whole life, that says a lot. This is just the beginning for Jarvis Cocker.
"Running The World" video: