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Reviewed for FasterLouder.
The ever sartorial Jarvis Cocker returns with his second solo record and straight from the outset it is clear this is a change in direction. He switches gears and frames his arch lyrical tales with more dirty rock than quirky pop and in doing so he comes up trumps on the Steve Albini engineered album.
Albini is the gun for hire who is notorious for his back to basics recording aesthetics and the flat fee he charges for his work, eschewing any future royalties. I was initially surprised to read that Cocker had engaged Albini to work on the album, thinking that Britpop and the dry Englishness of his work with Pulp wouldn’t be a comfortable mix with the someone who has worked with Nirvana and The Pixies.
The master stroke of this album is in fact the pairing of these two men who are well known for speaking their minds and courting controversy. Cocker made his infamous Michael Jackson stage appearance and Albini must have expected the shitstorm that happened when he named one of his bands Rapeman.
On Further Complications Cocker retains the essence of what makes him such a songwriting genius. His words drip with sarcasm and bone-dry irony with frequent laugh out loud couplets such as “I met her in the museum of paleontology/I make no bones about it” on ‘Leftovers’ and I never said I was deep, but I am profoundly shallow” on ‘I Never Said I Was Deep’. Alongside Morrissey he reigns as one of the cleverest lyricists in recent times.
The interesting thing is how much of the music on the album references Albini associated bands and their like minded contemporaries. On the title track the verse sounds like Jesus Lizard while ‘Fuckingsong’ could have appeared on the Grinderman album. The dirty and loose sound is also infected with a strain of glam rock as if Cocker has been busy dancing in his bedsit to Roxy Music records.
The real feeling on this album is of Cocker sharing more in common these days with artists like Nick Cave and PJ Harvey than Damon Albarn and Brett Anderson. He is dialing into the sleazy side of rock n roll and allowing the debauched and sweaty Jarvis to stagger about the dancefloor. To reinforce the point he calls in saxophonist Steve MacKay (of Stooges Funhouse fame) to fire up ‘Homewrecker’ which sounds like The Saints attempting a demented remake of the Batman theme.
The album concedes to some of Cocker’s musical past with the final track ‘You’re In My Eyes (Disco Song)’. It begins with a ghostly Barry White groove and Cocker setting the scene with “Memories of days gone by, activated by a mirror ball shining bright, in a provincial disco on a Thursday night”. It places him back in the ‘Common People’ suburban world but this time he is looking back and trying to hold on to the memories while the heavy swirling soul funk sound blazes around him.
Cocker has produced some of his best work on Further Complications and without doubt Albini should also take credit for the final product. As an album it deals with poignancy, loss, memories and and the dissection of human relationships that Cocker has always reveled in. He has again focused his binoculars on finding romance in the mundane and it is truly invigorating stuff. For the sake of the music lets hope these Further Complications are left unresolved.