here’s something i wrote some time back for my college newspaper, the campus observer, on this same day.
jarvis cocker and the feeling called love
by daniel tham
Listening to the fashionably urban love songs on Jarvis Cocker’s self-titled solo album brought back many memories for me.
In his prolific career fronting Britpop band Pulp for over two decades, Cocker injected into his albums and songs a witty, scathing and often self-loathing songwriting that either made you hate loving it, or love hating it. That has probably something to do with the imperfect way he writes about love or, rather, the way he writes about the imperfect love we understand so much better than any romantic, sappy love song could describe.
His first major hit with Pulp in 1992, “My Legendary Girlfriend,” was a seven-minute epic whose main character did not feel right and had no one to hold. For Cocker, it could not be more simply put – “her love was a sham.”
Positive reviews followed the album “His ‘N” Hers” two years later. In this Casiotone-drenched record that introduced a much bigger audience to Pulp, Cocker continued to revel in the torrid memories of past loves and the lowdown of present ones. In “Do You Remember the First Time?” Cocker follows up the question in the title with his own recollection: “Í can’t remember a worst time but you know we’ve changed so much since then, Oh yeah we’ve grown.” However, he also peppers his songs with the idealisms that make love all worth that while despite its all its sleaze. “Oh I want to take you home. I want to give you children. You might be my girlfriend, yeah,” he sings in the anthemic chorus in the aptly titled “Babies.”
By the next album “Different Class” in 1995, Cocker and Pulp had reached cult status, riding high and above the Britpop wave and on the staggering success of their first single off the record, “Common People.” The song told the story of a bourgeois Greek girl wanting to slum it out with the common people such as Cocker himself. In this milestone album, Cocker expands his narrative but sticks to that same sorry view of love, singing of meeting up with past loves now married with babies. But it is here that he also builds up the sexual tension as would any teenage boy would, trying to understand this “Feeling Called Love,” looking up pencil skirts and seeing girls in their underwear.
If “Different Class” was a tease, then 1998’s “This is Hardcore” was an exorcism of all the sex-soaked nightmares festering in Cocker’s mind. In a much darker record than the previous ones, Cocker’s version of love turned into a plastic re-enactment of a pornographic film. For him, this was “music from a bachelor’s den, the sound of loneliness turned up to ten.” A bitches’ brew of morbid fear, lifeless performances, fantastical delusion and psychopathic paranoia was what Cocker’s songs had morphed into.
The exorcism seemed somewhat complete. In what would turn out to be the last Pulp album, “We Love Life” was an enigmatic end to the Pulp dynasty. Produced by Scott Walker, this last waltz saw Pulp bowing out with a charmingly developed sound, a far cry from the cheap-synth sounds that so characterized their earlier records. Cocker also rediscovered his old self, once again drowning in his own self-loathing in “Weeds,” recounting tragic stories of date rape, and finding enough wit inside of him to face his ex-lover.
“The word’s on the street, you’ve found someone new. If he looks nothing like me, I’m so happy for you.”
Some things never change.
And indeed they never do, as I listen to Cocker’s new solo effort. Minus the heavy presence of Pulp, this new record sounds stripped down, but still overflowing with Cocker’s new old tales of stagnating loves and futile dreams of relationships made right again. Somehow, after all these years, Cocker continues to live for the moment, telling of the human condition as it is, or at least from how he sees it. However, it also becomes telling as he adds some perspective to it at the end.
“And someone’s getting born. And someone’s getting killed. Somebody falls in love. Somebody falls from the window-sill.”
Perhaps that is what Cocker thinks today – of that feeling called love.