Less thinking, more rocking

May 18, 2009
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Jarvis Cocker
Further Complications

Rough Trade

ESSENTIAL "I Never Said I Was Deep"

Just to ensure there are no hard feelings about the rocking underpinnings of his new album, Jarvis Cocker titled one of the tracks "I Never Said I Was Deep." That sentiment, of course, belies Cocker's history of making sumptuously smart and witty Brit-pop dating back to his tenure fronting the band Pulp.

"Further Complications," Cocker's sophomore solo album, is wildly fun, though never sloppy. Those who fear Jarvis dumbed down have nothing to worry about; even the seemingly harmless garage-rock blowout "Angela," the project's first single, is smartly sinister. Recording with Steve Albini in Chicago, Cocker and his band conjured an array of bluesy and boozy tones, listing sometimes toward the dance floor, other times toward the bar.

That Cocker can go from the unsettled howl of the title track to the lush mood of "Slush" to the twitchy disco lament "You're in My Eyes" says more about his abilities as a crack band leader than lays open claims of musical schizophrenia.

Cocker takes on a variety of roles here - self-professed screw-up, yearning lover, bitter commentator - and sells each with method-acting flair. The album has a wonderful balance between crafty wordplay (he says there are no bones about flirting in the museum of paleontology) and straight-up rock thrills, one being a raucous appearance by the Stooges' sax player Steve Mackay.

Long branded a thinking man's rocker, Cocker seems refreshed to simply bash through an electrifying set of tunes concerned more with appropriate vibe than surgical precision. It's deeper than you think. (Out tomorrow) -- SCOTT McLENNAN