Essential: "I Will Kill Again"
Here is the silver lining to the demise of Britpops best band. After Pulp split up in 2002, their lead singer went very much his own way: Jarvis Cocker moved to France, joined members of Radiohead on a Harry Potter soundtrack, and donned a skeleton costume to perform with his electronic act, Relaxed Muscle. On his solo debut, Cocker returns to more familiar pop territory at a high point in his long career as a songwriter. The first full track is a masterfully catchy overhaul of Dont Let Him Waste Your Time, which Cocker originally wrote for Nancy Sinatra to croon on her 2004 self-titled album. Black Magic cranks up a sample of Tommy James and the Shondells Crimson and Clover into an improbable glam-rock stomp that only Cocker (or maybe David Bowie) could pull off. But pop hooks are only the point of entry to a collection of songs that proves nearly as personal, as socially aware, and as deft at intertwining the two, as was Pulps 1998 opus, This Is Hardcore. Cocker is too funny and too bitter to come off as preachy when, in A to I, he plays with the rhetoric of the War on Terror: They want to take our way of life/ Well, they can take mine any time they like. The same is true when I Will Kill Again transforms a domestic scene into one of tranquilized isolation while, in the background, we hear the notes of a laughably serene flute. If the cheap humor of Fat Children and the profanity-laced, hidden protest track, Running the World, are decidedly over the top, thats just what keeps all of this worldly opining palatable. Kitsch was always Pulps bread and butter, and without it, the very grown-up Jarvis would sound too grown-up to be Jarvis.[David Kieley]