Jarvis Cocker, ‘Angela’

Jarvis Cocker

It’s pretty big of us to give space to Jarvis Cocker, what with the bearded beanpole ripping us off all over the place, but we’re pretty forgiving types. And come on, old Jarv is having a rough time of it right now – his marriage is kaput, the new album barely tickled the Top 20 and Pulp show no signs of “doing a Blur” and rebooting flagging finances.

Now I hate to fly in the face of the true wisdom of this place, but Junior reckoned ‘Angela’ was “lovely” and, well, she’s wrong, isn’t she? It’s surely a seedy account of a man suffering a mid-life crisis – and nothing autobiographical about it, of course – set to unlovely, galumphing rock. It sounds unfinished, although we might just allow it some raw, primal energy. Yeah, OK, it sounds unfinished.

Most of Further Complications bleeds that crisis, albeit with some zip and humour. It’s a more considered, Anglo take on Nick Cave’s Grinderman, with the same regular recourse to macho guitars – hiding that paunch with feedback. Jarvis could’ve done better with the melodies, but when Junior’s chanting “An-ge-la” long after the song’s finished, who am I to argue? Much.

A dry stick at the end of a branch:

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[1] Blur, ‘Girls & Boys’

Oh. Seems they did stand a chance after all.

From baggy also-rans via Kinksian chroniclers of rubbish modern life to standard-bearers of a New England, Blur came back an unexpected success in ’94. The game had seemed up, but ‘Girls & Boys’ was shot through with a new lease of life. For me, the trick wasn’t sustained over the whole Parklife album – although legions will disagree – with nothing repeating the pure pop bounce and sneering conviction of this curtain-raiser. It sounds like early Duran Duran (yeah, that is a good thing), yet bolstered further by its punk-funk credibility and cheery dismissal of Club 18-30 culture.

A dunderheaded chorus, too, which has stick-on appeal for the younger listener. Junior’s up to speed by the second airing, and shows off an interesting dance where the legs stand stock-straight and still while the upper body wigs out. It’s all a bit mid-‘60s Top Of The Pops.

News just in: The 2008 Top 20 Singles countdown will start tomorrow, one-a-weekday until Christmas Eve. It has an extra feature too. Gosh, I’m all a-flutter.

[2] Oasis, ‘Live Forever’

Well, this just glows with melody, doesn’t it? I’m not sure whose melody it is, but the fact it’s not immediately traceable has to be a good thing. Oasis were that bit too raw in ’94 for the Pastiche Police to really get their claws in – they’d save that for, er, 1995 – and it helps to remember this and Definitely Maybe in context. That context saw a refreshing blast of scally rock, blowing away the grey ashes of shoegaze/any other indie feyness you care to name. It’s best not to think of what Oasis were to become.

But, just in case you were wondering, there are more hooks in Liam’s first “mayb-eh” of ‘Live Forever’ than there are in the whole of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, ‘All Around The World’, ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’, I could go on. That the song is also a statement of intent, fierce belief in the immortality of youth, only makes the grizzled dadrock flavour of later stuff harder to swallow.

Junior ploughed through her cereal as the band waded through what seems a more sluggish record 14 years on. ‘Live Forever’ does lack some oomph out of that context again, but Junior eventually got sucked in, whipping out the guitar to throw some shapes for the final solo.

So, that’s three Oasis singles in our Top 20. Britpop wars? Pah. Blur didn’t stand a chance.

[10] Blur, ‘Song 2’

And whoomph. Blur killed Britpop.

It only took two minutes as well.

Why didn’t anyone think of it before?

‘Song 2’ was given its due props by Junior, who flung herself from side to side during the choppy verses and headbanged perfectly in time to the speedrush chorus. She then made a dive for her dad’s notebook, trying to rip up her history like a short female Albarn.

She walked unaided for the first time today too. Fifteen steps the best consecutive effort. It wasn’t easy, but nothing is.

[16] Fiona Apple, ‘Fast As You Can’

Fiona Apple

Poor Blur, shunted down a place because I couldn’t find the Fiona Apple album yesterday morning. I asked Junior’s mum if she’d seen it in the car, and it turns out she’d taken it to work the day before. Two extraordinary things here: a) an album untouched for a good five years is removed the day before it’s needed; b) Junior’s mum doesn’t seem to be scared about nabbing my records without asking. She obviously hasn’t heard what karma rained down on my big sister in 1983.

So, this is 16 going on 17, innocent as a rose.

It seems to have the same fade-in as ‘Northern Lites’ before coming on like incidental music in a Broadway musical. Apple has a fantastic, mad, fruitily passionate voice for such a willowy frame, and the song draws Junior’s attention with its frantic pace. It peaks with the big soul breakdown in the middle, and Dad keeps the baby punter rapt with a piercingly accurate impression.

“I’ll be your giiiiirrrrrl…” No wonder she was dumbstruck.

[17] Blur, ‘Tender’

Albarn

Or Damon’s brave devotional country and western mantra folly. If nothing else, it makes babies rock slowly back and forth, wailing along here and there. Mind you, by the seventh minute, Junior was on her belly pulling herself over to the coffee table to upset all the Sunday papers. Whatever it takes to block out Graham Coxon’s whiny, reedy voice.

I loved this song for a week or two. Albarn’s singing was shocking on Top Of The Pops, but I thought we had a new Kumbaya hippy dippy campfire classic. Yes, of course we needed one. Its appeal waned all too quickly, and by the time everyone saw that cute little milk carton haring about it was completely forgotten. Aw, bless that little milk carton.

‘Tender’ sounds ok today. Moving off-topic, there are FIVE American female soloists to come in the next 16. A special, unspecified, possibly fictional prize to anyone who can guess them.

[10] Blur, ‘The Universal’

That clever-clever Clockwork Orange video, the voguish thought-control paranoia of the lyric, the clean lines and tuneless faffings of The Great Escape: Blur were a funny old mixed bag in 1995. Parklife – half a very good album – gave them too much fame and they didn’t know what to do with it. I don’t know if they intended to skewer it with half-baked songs, but it was a sterling effort.

‘The Universal’ is one of two exceptions, to these ears. It’s singalong (ooh, “ironic” karaoke), has some fine trumpet interludes, satisfying use of strings and it builds to a crescendo rather like the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Jealousy’. 

Junior jumped when the strings came in, but soon relaxed as her dad did his near-legendary violin mime. She did the head-rock again, for a moment resembling a classical cellist, and rounded things off with a few of her favourite lip-smacks like an Albarn relishing his Gorillaz cash.

You can almost hear Graham Coxon sneering that he never liked hits anyway.