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:

[17] Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg, ‘Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus’

Perhaps not an ideal track to play to a two-year-old, but Junior appeared to be more embarrassed at me trying to whistle along to the organ than anything else. ‘Je T’Aime…’ isn’t brilliant, but it has a good groove and is, frankly, hilarious. What a lecherous old goat Serge was, and isn’t it splendid that this record is so tied up with its pastiches it’s become a parody of itself?

What more can we say? Some trivia: Fontana got cold feet in the less-permissive-than-reported late ‘60s and dropped the Birkin/Gainsbourg original, only to see it vault to the top of the charts on the minor Major Minor label; Birkin’s wispy voice lives on in daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, who released a very fine solo album in 2006, aided and abetted by Jarvis Cocker and Air; Misty Oldland’s ‘A Fair Affair’ made, well, fair use of the rhythm track to shape a winning little number in 1994. It’s a gossamer-thin legacy, as quaint as the song seems now.

[5] Pulp, ‘Common People’

This one topped many end of year lists, so I won’t try to add too much or rabbit on about Jarvis Cocker’s art college youth. We all know it’s a landmark record of its time, even if it’s only marking the ordinary backwaters of Britpop.

What I like best about it is that it’s a song that knows it has a Final Chorus, and it builds up to it like it’s an event. It’s ever more frantic, juddery and head-pounding, and you’re there with it at the end. And everyone knows the wit and wile of the words.

Junior danced to this, standing up bouncing on her mum’s lap, savouring the rush. She’s getting ready to slum it with the common people at nursery in a couple of weeks.

Thumbing through the singles afterwards, I put on ‘Babies’. I always liked Pulp, but I never felt I could love them. ‘Babies’ was the exception.