Monday, June 15, 2009

Jarvis Cocker's "Further Complications"

One good way to think about Jarvis Cocker’s new solo album, ‘Further Complications,’ is as rather like the music of another truly classic songwriter, who you might not think shares much in common with Cocker. I speak of the ruler of sinister himself… Nick Cave.

Both men have such intelligent and subtle lyrical constructions that you wonder if they write poems to which they set music, or the other way around. Both men are capable of dark humor and cynicism, but also seem to give us moments that are touchingly familiar. Both have longstanding involvement with seminal bands (Pulp and the Bad Seeds respectively) that have produced lots of great music over the last couple of decades. Both, perhaps most pointedly for the purposes of a review of this album, have solo/side projects in which they show the angrier, dirtier side of their sound.

Nick Cave released this first album with side project ‘Grinderman’ in 2008, and played some of the heaviest sounding music he’s ever done on it. To move, more or less consciously, from the 90s disco core of Pulp to something rather like Grinderman, Cocker called on an absolute master of the industrial and vicious. Producer Steve Albini has worked with PJ Harvey and Fugasi, Nirvana and The Breeders among (many) others, and each time has found the most live and furious sound those artists have ever produced. On this album, tracks like “Fuckingsong” were recorded live in Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, and give the album an edgy and muddy feel which is really a great new direction for Cocker.

In the album’s title track Cocker sings: “I was not born in wartime/ I was not born in pain or poverty/ I need an addiction, I need a affliction/ to cultivate my personality.” It’s a witty lyric, but it’s also a bitter sentiment that could have sat well on the ‘Grinderman’ set-list. Who would have thought that the writer of pop classics like ‘Common People’ and ‘Lipgloss’ would put down music like this. It’s good for us that his did – ‘Further Complications’ is close to the best work Cocker has ever had a hand in.

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