Jarvis Is Hardcore

by Stephen Tall on December 23, 2006

There’s a good – if slightly pretentiously written – interview in today’s Indy with that musical virtuoso Jarvis Cocker. (And if you’re still looking for a Christmas present for any wannabe indie ‘90s’ throwbacks you know, then I heartily recommend his solo album, Jarvis.)

His monochrome Sheffield drawl pretty much guarantees anything he says – bon mot, or simple statement – can be defined as deadpan:

… we have to get ready to drive off to a photo shoot. He dons an overcoat, woolly scarf and bobble hat. He looks like an adorable, sexy Where’s Wally. “May I run to the loo?” I ask. “You can walk if you like,” he says.

There is a terrific track on the album entitled From A To I – the A stands for Auschwitz, the I for Ipswich. As his interviewer, Hermione Eyre, notes, it has acquired a “chilling prescience”. Here’s the first stanza:

“They want our way of life”. Well, they can take mine any time they like. Cos God knows – I know I ain’t living right: I’m wrong. I know I’m so wrong. So like the Roman Empire fell away – let me tell you; we are going the same way. Ah, behold the Decline & Fall. All hold hands with our backs to the wall. It’s the end: why don’t you admit it? It’s the same from Auschwitz to Ipswich: Evil comes I know from not where. But if you take a look inside yourself – maybe you’ll find some in there.

Jarvis has always explored, with naively lascivious curiosity, the dark underbelly of modern living: most notably on Pulp’s 1998 album, This Is Hardcore – for my money, their best – which did so unapologetically and (it turned out) uncommercially. The penultimate track, Glory Days, sums up its big-band misanthropy:

Oh it doesn’t get much better than this, cos this is how we live our glory days.
Oh and I could be a genius if I just put my mind to it
and I, I could do anything if only I could get round to it.
Oh we were brought up on the Space-Race, now they expect you to clean toilets.
When you’ve seen how big the world is, how can you make do with this?

It was Jarvis’s precocity for eulogising the mundane and seedy which inspired one of Chris Morris’s finest parodies on Brass Eye (which, though almost a decade old, is still the freshest, most brutally brilliant, satire around):