Jarvis Cocker Further Complications

[Rough Trade; 2009]

Styles: rock, britpop, indie rock
Others: Nick Cave, Lou Reed, David Bowie

From the opening moments of Further Complications, it is apparent that Jarvis Cocker's sophomore solo outing is cut from a cloth different in texture and style than that with which he has previously worked. Enlisting recording engineer Steve Albini, the sound is unsurprisingly more stripped-down and hard-rocking than anything Cocker's done in the past. If there is a surprising element here, it is that the results are so effective. Despite my worries that Cocker's dark, but somewhat affected, vocals would slip from ironic to parodic when paired with louder, more aggressive instrumentation, the marriage is one well-designed. His sometimes effete croon seamlessly takes on a more impudent quality that nicely matches his assertive lyrics.

And judged strictly by those lyrics, this album is actually a return to form. Cocker's early guiding obsession with his insatiable sexual appetite, somewhat sidelined through his work in the past decade, rears its nasty head again. This restored lecher poet pruriently pines for a young wage laborer in the garage-y "Angela," proposes the slick hard rock of "Fuckingsong" as means for aural sex, and ultimately excuses himself from any accountability for his actions in the faux syrup of "I Never Said I Was Deep." It's like the reformed sinner of the past few years has not just fallen of the wagon, but has jumped from it with aplomb.

That last track, along with a few others, also bring in that softer pop sound more akin to Cocker's prior work, partially mitigating the harder-edged stuff, but not in a way that waters down the overall effect. The album still has the most force of anything since Different Class and, with "Angela," perhaps the catchiest single since "Common People." It will be interesting to see if fans will embrace this bolder approach as a welcome refusal to mellow with age, or if they will find it too unsophisticated for their cultivated sensibilities. But, really, that's always been his structuring tension -- the coexistence of the literate intellectual and the incorrigible cad in one gaunt figure. This newest Cocker incarnation restages this conflict in a way that establishes his continuing vitality and creativity and confirms that his sardonic wit has only sharpened with time.

1. "Further Complications."
2. Angela
3. Pilchard
4. Leftovers
5. I Never Said I Was Deep
6. Homewrecker!
7. Hold Still
8. Fuckingsong
9. Caucasian Blues
10. Slush
11. You're In My Eyes (Discosong)

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