JARV IS... alive and well
6 August 2020-
Jarvis Cocker, of Pulp historic fame, started a new side project a couple of years ago, the purpose of which was to improvize on stage and see where that would lead. We now know the answer to that: the acclaimed release of a brand new album in many ways...
Anyone who was alive in the 90’s — OK, let’s say alive and in junior high school — knows of Jarvis Cocker. More specifically, the band that made him a pop icon of his day: Pulp. The 1995 release of “Common People” marked a turning point, not only in the band’s long and up to that point rather obscure history, but in the history of music itself: it changed the path of Brit Pop towards a more sophisticated, meaningful direction, all the while emphasizing the working class, down-to-earth roots of the movement otherwise embodied by the likes of Oasis, Suede and Blur — with varying degrees of actual working class credentials, one might argue.
Never one to get pigeonholed, Cocker followed the massive success of that song’s album, Different Class, with the far more complex and introspective This is Hardcore, in ways an ode to the concept albums of yore (see: The Who, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd…) and a beautiful, more intimate answer to the contemporary juggernaut that was Radiohead’s OK Computer. After the eventual end of the Pulp experience — a band whose only permanent member was Cocker himself — the artist dabbled with other artists on other projects, most notably with the genre-breaking character that is Chilly Gonzalez, until he decided to start a new band, albeit of a new and improved kind, with JARV IS… (ellipsis included).
The idea behind this project was (is) to work out new material live on stage, as a sort of collaborative experience. Several of the tracks present on the band’s first album, 2020’s Beyond the Pale, were indeed first recorded live before being further reengineered in the studio. The result is a refreshingly experimental, yet approachable piece of artistry that serves as an homage to the electronic stylings of the New Wave days, the post-Rock work of Berlin-era David Bowie, the musings of the Velvet Underground as well as a subtle reimagining of contemporary electro-pop sounds that can be heard everywhere from Daft Punk to Tame Impala to… the list could take an entire article. The point is — Cocker’s new output is both remarkably referential and eminently contemporary.
The album’s leading track, “House Music All Night Long”, is a highly efficient electro-funk infused piece of work, that serves as a great outline of the project’s ambition. “Must I evolved” showcases the more experimental aspect of JARV IS…, as based on a live recording and featuring a rather complex mix of leading and backing vocals along with various analog and electronic instruments, which may very well remind the listener of Arcade Fire’s live energy (always a plus). Meanwhile, “Swanky modes” is a subdued, highly melodic track that is somewhat more reminiscent of Pulp’s earlier production. Then again, the man behind all this is very much the same, in all his highly enjoyable iterations.
While this album is in no way perfect — the collection of tracks is rather varied, with some experiments more successful than others — it is overall a highly interesting project that serves as a great reminder that one can always count on Jarvis Cocker. Because he will always be able to surprise you, no matter how many decades he’s been at it…