"House Music All Night Long", song from the new album

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Back in 2006 Pulp was already a memory for Jarvis Cocker. Back then Jarvis was 42 years old and said with brutal honesty that he had had to kill the band to save himself as an artist. "Pulp was my protective stuffed animal. Even though we had some relatively long periods of inactivity, I knew the band was always there, ready to pick up again. But hanging around with that protective stuffed toy at 42 is a bit sad, so I had to get rid of of the". The plush fleetingly revived in 2012 to offer a handful of headlining concerts at major festivals (Coachella, Primavera Sound, Glastonbury) and even visited Buenos Aires that same year, where Pulp gave a memorable show at Luna Park.

Today, at 56, this Sheffield musician who was a key piece of Britpop – perhaps his most political and sophisticated face – is focused exclusively on his solo career, started with Jarvis (2006), a virtuous takeoff to which they succeeded Further Complications (2009), Room 29 (disc in partnership with the intrepid Canadian pianist Chilly Gonzales) and, now, Beyond the Pale, album published by the prestigious label Rough Trade that was not planned and ended up being born as another by-product of these abnormal times of global quarantine.


All the grace of a fundamental figure in popular music of the last 25 years Source: THE NATION

Cocker's life outside of Pulp's limits was always intense: he married Camille Bidault-Waddington in 2002, a year after the band's last album appearance to date, We love life, produced by one of its heroes, Scott Walker, and moved to Paris. She had a son, divorced, returned to England, and met her current partner, Kim Sion. He put together with Richard Hawley Relaxed Muscle, a sordid electronic duo who recorded a single album. He gave two songs to Nancy Sinatra for an album where Frank's daughter also performed songs by U2, Morrissey and Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth). He composed three others for the soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where he also appeared in a brief cameo. He sang in the documentary and the album versions I'm Your Man, a tribute to Leonard Cohen whose continuation is now unmistakably reflected in the opening theme of Beyond the Pale, "Save the Whale" (where David Sylvian's vocal style also resonates). He participated in another tribute album dedicated to the French dandy Serge Gainsbourg, another crucial figure on his influence map, and collaborated with his daughter Charlotte on his beautiful debut album, 5:55.

In 2017, Jarvis assembled a band of six English members with the idea of ​​making only live performances. He named his new project JARV IS … ("the ellipsis is important because it describes something that is not finished," explained the musician) and he set about creating a repertoire in which his route companions played a role. very relevant. The selection of those musicians already gave clues about the chosen course: the multi-instrumentalist Serafina Steer and the violinist Emma Smith (both from the postpunk band Bas Jan), Andrew McKinney (bassist of a jazz band, Rochester James Taylor Quartet), Jason Buckle (member of the electronic group Sheffield All Seeing I) and Adam Betts (drummer Three Trapped Tigers, an experimental rock project). It was clear that the main objective was not the production of resounding hits of the "Common People" or "Disco 2000" style, but rather to go through a path of sound exploration that would be more stimulating for an artist who, at the stage of maturity, also diversified his activities with an excellent radio program on BBC 6 (Sunday Service, which lasted from 2010 to 2017) and, this year, a series of animated home DJ sets that brightened the Saturdays of many fans forced into prison by the pandemic.

"Common people", his milestone with Pulp

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All this history serves to better understand what kind of album it is Beyond the Pale. It was Geoff Barrow (Portishead) who convinced Jarvis to edit it, proposing to use some recordings of the band's concerts as a base and add studio overdubs that would shape what they define as "live album" rather than "live" " The result is irregular: a repertoire made up of scattered fragments whose dynamics sometimes work well and others not so much, and in which Jarvis's singular voice is one more element, not necessarily the predominant one. In more than one passage on the album, Cocker appeals to suggestive recitals that, thanks to their magnetic presence, in shows work very well, but here they lose an important part of their effectiveness, especially in songs whose duration becomes excessive ( the closure, "Children of the Echo", a well-aimed dart against stupidity, aggressiveness and cowardice that is current currency in social networks, is a clear case).

It is very likely that the electronic pop of this new stage of Jarvis will be oiled as the band adds time to work and can finally record an album in more conventional conditions. Still, it's fair to say that the album has great moments. In "Must I Evolve?", For example, Cocker reminds us again that he knows perfectly well how to introduce into the field of pop song issues that do not usually appear in that universe: in a story that goes back to the big bang that would have happened. originated matter, tempo and space, obsessively repeats questions like "Should I change?" and "Should I evolve?", and receives the response of a female choir that decrees yes in triplicate. When you ask whether it should stay the same, instead, the answer is obviously "no, no, no." The choice of women's voices is not random: to the existential dilemmas of humanity in this alienating phase is added the awareness of the necessary rethinking of a masculinity whose more traditional precepts have been faltering for a long time.


Jarvis Cocker on stage
Jarvis Cocker on stage Source: THE NATION

And the questions do not end there. In "And I Missing Something?", Cocker stands "on the brink of extinction" (a foreboding verse he wrote over a year ago) and surfs on a Krautrock-inspired basis to reveal the paranoia of these with his usual acidity. times that push us to be in too many places at once ("Is there something I'm missing?", "Is there something going on behind my back?"). Nothing that we have not experienced when face-to-face contact begins to be cut short by the abusive demand for smartphones and their dozens of applications. In "Swanky Modes," by contrast, Jarvis showcases his status as a great urban narrator with a whispered story of flirtation and disappointment set in the ever-crowded streets of Camden Town. The song is tinged with a melancholic longing for the days of "VHS and casual sex", more exciting than this present of serial gentrified cities.

Jarvis's reflections on the world in which we live, one of the most notorious strengths of Beyond the Pale, they have a sharpness and depth that are not at all common in pop music. They are the fruit of your readings –The red book from Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell's inquiries into comparative mythology – and also from his interest in the idea of ​​the collective unconscious, "that primary ocean in which we sink when we sleep and in which are the symbols shared by all humanity, without import your geographical situation, "he said in a recent interview. "All this interests me especially at a time when people have become so polarized," he stressed in that same note. "An example is what happened with Brexit: 50% against 50%. There is a tendency for factions and the fight. I think it is much better to think about the things we have in common, instead of dividing ourselves into good and bad. Stressing our humanity, instead of feeling the difference. And music has always been good in this sense. Because when People listen to a song at a concert, dance to it and enjoy it together, they are sharing a moment. That is what is really worth it. Music is our kingdom. And it transforms the world into a better place. "

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. (tagsToTranslate) Jarvis Cocker (t) the life of the most common English gentleman in the world after Pulp – LA NACION

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