What’s that sound wafting over the 2023 landscape?
Why, it’s Britpop!
Blur, Suede, Pulp and Sleeper have all shown up in my concert notification emails this year and the reviews of their live performances have been nothing less than ecstatic. Given all the shit that people in the UK have endured in the last few years and the shit they’re still going through today, I imagine these concerts are something of a healing experience for UK music fans—and given the state of the NHS, the only healing experiences they’re likely to have for a while.
Though I’m pretty much immune to nostalgia, I think there’s more to the story than a simple longing for the good old days. “Britpop was a mid-1990s British-based music culture movement that emphasized Britishness,” says Wikipedia. One could say that Britpop was an ironic Declaration of Independence from the cultural influence of the United States, a ringing affirmation of the right to sing about British themes in British accents. As opposed to its predecessors (shoegaze and grunge), Britpop was dynamic, assertive music marked by youthful energy. The peak of Britpop coincided with a similar youth movement in the political arena (relatively speaking) with the rise of Tony Blair, who was wildly popular during that time. Many people in the UK remember that period as the best of times, when huge crowds sang along with the bands to songs like “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Common People.”
Britpop died rather suddenly due to a combination of excessive drug use, substandard albums and the Spice Girls. Tony Blair became one of the most unpopular PMs in history after he allowed George W. Bush (of all people) to talk him into joining the crusade against Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. A bit later in the new century, the UK moved from pride to polarization with the Brexit referendum, with each side now locked into their perceptions of what “being British” really means.
If this recent Britpop revival triggers memories of what British pride felt like, I think that’s a good thing. If it turns out just to be a nostalgic look backward to happier days, that’s okay, too. The music of that era deserves to be celebrated for its energy, its insights and in some cases, its timelessness.
All the Britpop hoohah prompted me to scan my spreadsheet for albums I may have missed or post-Britop solo efforts by the main players. As I have no intention of reviewing Beady Eye or Noel Gallagher’s Flying Birds UNTIL AND UNLESS THE GALLAGHER BROTHERS GROW THE FUCK UP AND STOP SLAMMING EACH OTHER, I didn’t have a whole helluva lot to choose from. I selected Jarvis Cocker’s first solo effort for three reasons: he makes me laugh; he always has something interesting to say about life in our dysfunctional universe; and he was clearly one of the two best lyricists of the Britpop era (along with Louise Wener).
Pulp went on hiatus in 2003. Jarvis kept himself occupied with his electro-duo Relaxed Muscle and a too-brief appearance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. What is known as The Jarvis Cocker Record (also referred to as just plain Jarvis) was released in 2003. The only ex-Pulp member from the Different Class lineup appearing on the album was bassist Steve Mackey. Guitarist Richard Hawley (who did join Pulp for a few minutes and appears on two tracks on We Love Life) and drummer Ross Orton complete the band lineup. In addition to the four core members, Jarvis brought in a choir of fourteen, a 24-piece string section and seven other top-flight musicians.
Please note that the version of the album I chose to review involves a bit of cheating on my part. According to Discogs, every version from every country opens with the instrumental “The Loss Adjuster (Excerpt Pt. 1)”. That makes sense from an aesthetic perspective, as “Excerpt Pt. 2” brings the album nearly full circle with its placement in the penultimate position. Some versions include “Running the World” as the closing track, while others list the song as a bonus track (some separating it entirely by placing it on a bonus 7″ disc).
Sometimes I like listening to an album in the background before I go into deep listening mode so I can get a general feel for the music. When I asked Siri to access Apple Music and play The Jarvis Cocker Record the dingbat played “Running the World” first. I requested a restart and she did it again. “Dumb bitch,” I muttered to myself. “I’m sorry. I can’t find that in your Apple music library,” she replied in a tone of regret.
I left Siri hanging in the ether, grabbed my laptop and opened Apple’s equally shitty Music application to try to figure out what went wrong. Much to my surprise, Siri was just following orders: the version of the album on Apple Music does begin with “Running the World.” My first impulse was to ignore Apple’s tinkering and review the “official album,” but “Running the World” is one of my favorite Jarvis Cocker songs and dammit, I’m in charge here! However, my anal side demands that I split the review into two parts to respect the integrity of the original release.
“Running the World”
Before we dive into “Running the World,” we need to talk about cunts.
The word is considered quite offensive in the United States, one of the nastiest, most disparaging epithets you can fling at a woman (or a man). My parents taught me that words are only offensive in context or in the meaning the listener attaches to the words, so the first time a guy called me a fucking cunt, I responded, “Yes, I am a fucking cunt. What else would I do with my cunt, dickhead?”
In the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, the term can be both endearing and offensive. Here are a few endearing examples from a Quora discussion on the subject:
- “Thanks for saving my arse there, Dave, you’re a top cunt.”
- “This clever cunt got straight A’s in his finals! Fucking Einstein or what?”
- “This sleeping bag is ace. I’m a right toasty cunt now.”
Wikipedia’s explanation of the pejorative use of the term is more applicable to our discussion: “As a broader derogatory term, it is comparable to prick and means ‘a fool, a dolt, an unpleasant person – of either sex.’ This sense is common in New Zealand, British, and Australian English, where it is usually applied to men or as referring specifically to a despicable, contemptible or foolish man.”
And that is the meaning attached to the word cunt in “Running the World.” If you are offended by the mere mention of the term, I would argue strenuously that Jarvis Cocker found le mot juste, the phrase Gustave Flaubert used to describe his obsession with finding “the right word” in every sentence that appears in his novels. No other word would do.
The song begins in a rather disarming manner with a fade-in involving a repeated two-note pattern on the piano (E-F) on the left channel, hinting at a chord progression of C-Bbsus2-F. A light touch of guitar distortion enters in the middle of the intro alongside ambient music on the right echoing the chord progression. The mood is melancholy, suggesting that Jarvis is about to give us some sad news that we may not want to hear.
Well did you hear? There’s a natural order
Those most deserving will end up with the most
That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top
Well I say, “Shit floats”
That brilliant one-liner contradicts the morose music, so at this point early in the game, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or both. A change in the chord pattern to F-G-C introduces the chorus, where strings enter the mix, adding a touch of beauty to the melancholy. When we get to the chorus, with the key lines bathed in sweet, ironic harmony, Jarvis reveals another aspect of beauty, courtesy of John Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
And the truth shall set you free:
If you thought things had changed
Friend, you’d better think again
Bluntly put, in the fewest of words
Cunts are still running the world
Cunts are still running the world
At first, I laugh at his sheer audacity and the ironic combination of lush music and hard truths, but as Jarvis proceeds to make his case, I get pretty fucking angry. The next verse-chorus set is delivered over a more typical band arrangement of drums, bass and guitar with the piano and ambient music still in place and the strings holding back until the chorus. The first specific charge in the indictment of the elite involves the utterly short-sighted move on the part of capitalists in wealthy countries to ship manufacturing jobs and capability to less-wealthy countries—a move that made them tons of money, delighted unthinking consumers, destroyed the lives of millions, left them vulnerable to supply chain glitches and led to massive polarization and societal destabilization:
Now the working classes are obsolete
They are surplus to society’s needs
So let ’em all kill each other
And get it made overseas
That’s the word, don’t you know
From the guys that’s running the show
Let’s be perfectly clear boys and girls
Oh cunts are still running the world
Cunts are still running the world
Theoretically, globalism can be a positive force, for it’s always better for countries to engage in trade instead of war. Unfortunately for us, the cunts who run the world used the opportunity to enrich themselves and their fellow elites while conveniently ignoring the needs of the middle and lower classes, leaving them with shit jobs or no jobs at all. The globalists did accomplish one rare feat: they united left-wingers and right-wingers in mutual hatred of globalism.
For the next verse-chorus sets, Jarvis adds some bile to his voice as he changes roles and adopts the perspective of the cunts:
Feed your children on crayfish and lobster tails
Find a school near the top of the league
In theory, I respect your right to exist
I will kill you if you move in next to me
And it stinks, yeah it sucks, it’s anthropologically unjust
But the takings are up by a third, so
Cunts are still running the world, yeah
Cunts are still running the world
Cunts are still running the world
Cunts are still running the world
The music drops in volume for the final set, where the ugly truth typically hidden behind spin and consumer-oriented targeted marketing is laid out in no uncertain terms:
The free market is perfectly natural
Do you think that I’m some kind of dummy?
It’s the ideal way to order the world
“Fuck the morals, does it make any money?”
If you don’t like it, then leave
Or use your right to protest on the street
Yeah use your right, but don’t imagine that it’s heard
Not while cunts are still running the world
Cunts are still running the world, yeah
Cunts are still running the world, yeah
The line “Fuck the morals, does it make any money?” is delivered in a moment of stop-time, clearly marking the moral depravity of modern capitalism.
And he’s right: protest rarely leads to change in the 21st century. Millions of people in France went to the streets in opposition to the change in the retirement age; Macron ignored the marchers then used a constitutional trick to implement the new law. When the American people elected Joe Biden, no one voted for him in the hope that he would go out of his way to increase tensions with China; they wanted better health care and economic recovery. Half the world’s wealth belongs to one percent of the world’s population and I haven’t noticed any of them paying attention to the needs of the “common people.” What’s frustrating is no one has come up with a practical way to get rid of the cunts because the system provides them with kryptonite-level protection. Many people in several countries are worried about the threat to democracy from right-wing demagogues, but I would argue that the problem with democracy is we’re forever having to choose between two incompetent cunts who say whatever they need to say to get elected and then spend their time in office serving the elites and their highly paid lobbyists. It’s fucking incredible to me that the US is headed for a presidential rematch between two mediocre old farts while France is headed for a third round of Macron and LePen.
Remember, Jarvis Cocker wrote this song seventeen years ago and zero progress has been made toward a cunt-free world. If anything, the cunts have increased their stranglehold on power.
Oh, well. Jarvis did what he could to warn us of our impending doom with his laser-like focus on the underlying problem with the world today—a problem that hinders every effort to save the planet and create societies where everyone has a fair chance to reach their potential.
It’s the fucking cunts.
For more information on the fascinating etymology of “cunt,” check out the excerpt from the BBC’s “Balderdash and Piffle” featuring Germaine Greer.
The Album Proper
The twenty-nine-second prelude “The Loss Adjuster, Excerpt Pt. 1” consists of a rendition of elementary piano chords organized in three simple patterns: D-A, G-A-F-G, G-A-F-G-G. The absence of resolution to D at this point is a deliberate suggestion of a Pt. 2, which appears near the end of the album.
“Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” is one of two songs on the album previously recorded by Nancy Sinatra for her self-titled album released two years before The Jarvis Cocker Record. Both versions have their strong points, but I think the sax in Nancy’s version sounds a bit cleaner. If you’re interested, there’s a video of Nancy and Jarvis performing the song together on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross with Nancy taking the lead vocal and Jarvis strumming on an acoustic guitar while adding low harmonies on the chorus. The song itself is a well-crafted pop-rock song (based on sampling from Dion’s “Only You Know”) where the narrator gives advice to a woman dating a guy who might be good for a dinner-with-a-lay or two but has the nasty habit of wanting to conquer every woman who tickles his fancy:
Cause the years fly by in an instant
And you wonder what he’s waiting for
Oh, then some skinny bitch walks by in some hot pants
And he’s a-running out the door
So remember that one thing that you gotta know:
Let him read your palm and guess your sign
Let him take you home and treat you so fine
Don’t let him waste your time (2)
And yes, Nancy had no problem whatsoever singing the word “bitch.”
Thankfully, “Black Magic” is not a cover of “That Old Black Magic,” as I firmly believe that no one could have topped the Louis Prima/Keely Smith version. This “Black Magic” is essentially “Crimson and Clover” deconstructed into a very unusual arrangement combining chimes, tubular bells, sudden stop-time moments and single disconnected snare shots that bleed a bit. When the song finally achieves continuity, the similarities to the Tommy James hit are too obvious to ignore. The lyrics are unusually opaque for Jarvis Cocker, but the weird part is that after listening to it a few times, I started to like the song and I have no idea why.
As the next song is full of references to “stormy weather,” I assume that Jarvis chose “Heavy Weather” as the title to avoid comparisons to the Billie Holiday classic. It’s another solid pop-rock song featuring a guitar duet with Jarvis on tremolo guitar and Richard Hawley on a bright 12-string electric, creating a Byrds-like feel. While the music is generally upbeat, the lyrics find Jarvis in something of a contrary mood as a monster storm heads straight for his location:
Yeah, it looks like we are in for stormy weather
With death and destruction coming through
Oh, look out there she blows
Now everybody knows:
Stormy weather always makes me think of you
As to why stormy weather always makes Jarvis think of his “still and silent” lover, I interpret the lyrics as a somewhat darker take on the sentiments expressed in the Seekers hit “I’ll Never Find Another You” (“When I walk through the storm, you’ll be my guide”). In contrast to the confidence expressed by Judith Durham, it seems Jarvis needs the companionship because the storm is likely to trigger a total freakout.
Some of Jarvis Cocker’s best songs explore the secret lives of the allegedly normal human beings who make up the bourgeoisie, exposing what’s going on behind the façade of respectability. In “I Will Kill Again” he explores the repressive aspects of bourgeois culture and how the pressures of conformity can result in meaning-starved lives, toxic levels of ennui and associated personality disorders.
The song begins with the narrator considering the life of a neighbor who has followed the beaten path to comfortable maturity in the digital age:
Build yourself a castle
Keep your family safe from harm
Get into classical music
Raise rabbits on a farm
Log on in the night time
Drink a half-bottle of wine
Buy a couple of records
Look at naked girls from time to time
The neighbor is very much like Ray Davies’ Arthur; the only difference is that Arthur didn’t have access to online porn. From “Brainwashed”:
You’ve got a job and a houseAnd a wife, and your kids and a car Yeah, you’re conditioned to be What they want you to be And be happy to be where you are
As the narrator considers this lost soul, he feels neither pity nor empathy—only a seething anger directed at this pathetic symbol of the “good life.”
And people tell me
What a real nice guy you are
So come on, serenade me
On your acoustic guitar
And don’t believe me
If I claim to be your friend
Cause given half the chance
I know that I will kill again
I will kill again
So! We have a serial killer on our hands! While that may seem like a fanciful turn towards sensationalism, the disclosure is hardly far-fetched. When serial killers are exposed or when mass murderers have completed their dirty work, the news coverage is filled with quotes from friends and neighbors who invariably say things like, “I didn’t see it coming” or “Gosh, he was such a nice guy.” The stigma we attach to mental illness feeds that blindness and serves as a double-edged sword: we don’t see mental illness in others because we don’t want to see it and the victim of mental illness is embarrassed to talk about it.
Our serial killer has learned to blend in, and it’s the blending-in that reveals part of his motive for killing:
And wouldn’t it be nice
For all the world to live in peace?
And no-one gets ill or ever dies
Or dies of boredom at the very least
People do kill out of boredom; we call those incidents “thrill killing.” However, I sense that our killer isn’t in it for the kicks, but responding to a repressive environment by developing a simmering hatred of those who embrace that repression. In that sense, his motivations echo those of Columbine murderer Eric Harris described in a retrospective psychiatric evaluation:
He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he’s not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority. It may look like hate, but “It’s more about demeaning other people,” says Hare.
To punctuate his warning that society creates its killers, Jarvis closes the song by repeating the line “I will kill again” five times.
And he will.
Philip Sheppard’s string orchestration is excellent, conveying the underlying sadness of this ongoing human tragedy. Jarvis plays piano and synthesizer, but this flutist is a bit miffed that he used a fake mellotron flute instead of a real one.
We move quickly from darkness to enough sunshine to give you skin cancer with “Baby’s Coming Back to Me,” the other song on the album covered by Nancy Sinatra. The musical highlights include Alastair Malloy’s tuned percussion arrangement of marimba, congas and other percussion and the supporting glockenspiel and vibraphone supplied by Jarvis and Richard Hawley respectively, creating a soundscape of dreamy sweetness. In trying to capture the emotional lift of his baby coming back to him, Jarvis engages in unbridled hyperbole:
Outside there’s children laughing
The radio plays my favourite song
The sun is shining
Oh and peace broke out in the world
And no-one says a cruel word
And peace is the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard
And baby’s coming back to me
Yeah, baby’s coming back to me
Yeah, baby’s coming back to me
Yeah, baby’s coming home
Since Baby fails to return by the end of the song, this seems to be a case of misplaced optimism.
On first impression, “Fat Children” sounds like Jarvis Unhinged, insulting obese children and their fuck-all parents, and continuing to narrate the tale after he was murdered. But even when he seems to be rambling on about nothing in particular, he nearly always leaves a clue as to what he’s on about. In this case, the clue is contained in his post-mortem vow, “My spirit walks the streets of Tottenham.” The following excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Tottenham is based on source material from a 2002 Guardian article on the state of the north London Town:
Tottenham has been one of the main hotspots for gangs and gun crime in the United Kingdom during the past three decades. This followed the rise of gangs and drug wars throughout the area, notably those involving the Tottenham Mandem gang and various gangs from Hackney and all of the areas surrounding Tottenham, and the emergence of an organised crime ring known as the Turkish mafia fought other London gangs to allegedly control more than 90% of the UK’s heroin market.
Tottenham has been a working-class neighborhood for over a century; over the years it became a magnet for immigrants in search of affordable lodgings and is now solidly multi-cultural. Once you do the math, Cocker’s “rant” becomes “a typical day in the life of a multi-cultural community in a racist world”:
- Working class = poor = cheap food = fat children
- Working class + immigrants = shit-paying jobs
- Shit-paying jobs + hungry children = desperation = crime
- Poverty + hopelessness = drug addiction + more crime to finance addiction
I think Jarvis tells the story better than the equations:
Last night I had a little altercation
They wobbled menacingly
Beneath the yellow street light it became a situation
Well, they wanted my brand-new phone with all the pictures of the kids and the wife
A struggle ensued and then fat children took my life
Fat children took my life (3)
I think Jarvis deserves a Nobel Prize for Literature on the sole basis of “they wobbled menacingly.” As it happens, Jarvis survived the initial attack and received some assistance from people in the neighborhood, for as everyone knows, the cops are never around to protect the worthless poor . . . and they were busy elsewhere:
Well, some passers-by took me to the station
The police force was elsewhere,
Putting bullets in some guy’s head for no particular reason
So I died in the back of the cab
But I’ll be back to haunt them
This thing does not end here
My spirit walks the streets of Tottenham
You could say that his closing words qualify as helpful advice to parents, but if you did, everyone would think you’re an idiot:
Oh, the parents are the problem
Giving birth to maggots without the sense to become flies
So pander to your pampered little princess
Of such enormous size
“Fat Children” is the most rocking song on the album and was probably released as a single because of its strong hooks and driving beat. It should come as no surprise that “Fat Children” peaked at #158, for unlike P. J. Proby’s “Eve of Destruction,” the typical listener would have had to spend too much energy connecting the dots to understand that Jarvis was protesting crime and senseless violence.
The provocative title “From Auschwitz to Ipswich” opens with an appropriately provocative verse directed at the morons who constantly worry about various enemies who want to destroy our “way of life”:
“They want our way of life”
Well, they can take mine any time they like
Cause god knows, I know I ain’t living right:
I’m wrong; oh, I know I’m so wrong
No, he isn’t and no, he doesn’t. The way Jarvis figures it, our comfortable first-world existence is doomed due to a combination of obliviousness and human hatred:
So like the Roman Empire fell away
Let me tell you; we are going the same way
Ah, behold the Decline and Fall
All hold hands with our backs to the wall
It’s the end
Why don’t you admit it?
It’s the same from Auschwitz to Ipswich
I know from not where
But if you take a look inside yourself,
Maybe you’ll find some in there
I remember that after 9/11 there were oodles of op-eds that posed the question, “Why do they hate us?” You don’t have to be a genius to answer that question: the have-nots have always resented the haves, especially when the haves resort to military action to protect their “way of life” by attacking an “alien” way of life. In the long run, perpetuating the cycle of violence isn’t going to preserve anything; it’s much more likely to lead to our demise:
Well if your ancestors could see you standing there
They would gaze in wonder at your Frigidaire
They had to fight just to survive
So can’t you do something with your life? [Chorus]
Here it comes, why don’t you embrace it?
You lack the guts needed to face it
Say goodbye to the way you’ve been living
You never realized you were on the wrong side
And nobody’s going to win
In contrast to the lyrics, the music is light and decidedly poppy: the equivalent of wrapping your puppy’s medicine in a delicious coating of peanut butter.
You’d expect a song titled “Disney Time” to resemble something like “Whistle While You Work,” but Jarvis Cocker always likes to fuck with listener expectations. This sucker is as dark as dark can get, mixing ragged distorted guitar, a low-register vocal, muffled drums, morose strings and an eerie choir performance—a near-perfect soundtrack for a horror movie. The target of Cocker’s attack is preventive parenting that strives to hide the ugly realities of sex and gore from children while filling their heads with the fantasy alt-universe depicted in many a Disney production. Taking on the role of protective parent, Jarvis opens the song by posing a valid question to the pro-life crowd:
How come they’re called adult movies
When the only thing they show
Is people making babies
Filmed up close?
He follows that question with the illogical epiphany that it’s better to hide the truth from children: “I’m feeling so much better/Since I learned to avert my eyes/Now it’s Disney time.”
Not in front of the children
Fill their head with dreams
And hope to be like Bambi’s mother
And die off-screen
So you can tell your children
That everything’s gonna be just fine
Here in Disney time
Absolute piffle! The kid grows up, exposes the parents as serial liars and has to spend thousands of dollars on therapy. I’ll never understand the shame humans attach to something so thoroughly enjoyable as sex or why parents would hesitate to show children what violence and cruelty really look like.
“Tonite” can’t figure out if it wants to be a doo-wop song or a British Invasion song, and while the lyrics contain a few good lines, Jarvis leaves us without an “aha” moment. Let’s move on to the more interesting “Big Julie,” which in some versions, opens with a woman reading a Jarvis-edited quotation from Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding:
It happened that green and crazy summer . . . it was a summer when for a long time she had not been a member . . . She belonged to no club and she was a member of nothing in the world . . . And she was afraid
What Frankie (the character in the novel) and Big Julie have in common is a feeling of disconnection from life-as-they-know-it and an equally strong desire to escape that life for an ill-defined “better life.” In Cocker’s story, Julie finds a temporary form of escape in the music coming out of her radio, for it hints at enticing possibilities of a life where she is viewed as something more than a sexual object:
Well, the radio still plays:
Floating beyond time
Like the greatest people in the world
All springing up and feeling fine
And it’s far away from these sweaty lads
Who say that boys cannot be slags
And if it’s not them then it’s their dads
Like the guy who felt her up in class
And Sunday school teacher who said she had beautiful breasts
And the local radio DJ who is so obviously obsessed
Yeah, form an orderly queue when Big Julie rules the world
Big Julie rules the world
Frankie’s dreams never come to fruition; Jarvis leaves Big Julie wrapped up in the music that gives her hope. Jarvis delivers a rather impassioned vocal over the strings and piano, leading me to conclude that the song is really about his own experience of finding a better place through music.
“The Loss Adjuster (Excerpt Pt. 2”) clocks in at over eight minutes, ending with the passage from “The Loss Adjuster Excerpt Pt.2.” The extra space is filled with a narrative regarding the imminent end of the world and I’m delighted to report that Jarvis and I both believe that people will respond to the apocalyptic moment by spending their last few minutes fucking their brains out.
Except the loss adjuster, who couldn’t even get it up for “Egyptian Sue and the evil things she used to do.”
After a brief introduction, Jarvis slips into the role of loss adjuster facing the imminent demise of the world and his ultimately meaningless job. I could probably listen to Jarvis narrating something as boring as the Bible and feel completely entranced. Once he takes us through a landscape of crashing networks, gang-bangers, “convent girls screwing every man they meet” and memories of erectile dysfunction, he slips out of his loss adjuster costume for a reunion with his old self:
It was around this time that the levels of hysteria around the Kentish Town Road caused a warping of the Space/Time Continuum and I found myself face to face with a version of myself from fifteen years earlier, when I’d lived in the area. ‘Greetings Indie Legend,’ said I. ‘Fuck off Sad Bell-End,’ came the reply.
I wanted to warn him about the rough times ahead but for some reason he had his coat pulled over his head and wouldn’t listen. I left him trying to extricate a punctured Spacehopper from under some rubble in a skip.
‘He’ll find out soon enough, ‘ I thought.
And then suddenly I realised that I could no longer breathe.”
We return to “reality” only to learn that the loss adjuster has lost his mind with “too many claims/so little time/to file them.” After a brief narration depicting pending doom, we hear three unison repetitions of the closing verse, featuring one final, utterly absurd regret: “You never did see Dog Day Afternoon.” Keeping in mind that the central character is the loss adjuster, I think it would have been even more effective to end the piece with a quote from Ray Davies’ “Oklahoma U.S.A.”: “All life we work but work is a bore, If life’s for livin’ then what’s livin’ for?”
Continuing to make good use of the narrative possibilities in speculative science, “Quantum Theory” closes the album with a bit of optimism in a soundscape mixing acoustic guitar, carefully timed background vocalizations, and cautiously uplifting performances from the orchestra and choir. After so many songs of doom and gloom, Jarvis admits that things could turn out for the better if we escape our linear thinking and embrace the existence of multiple possibilities implied by quantum theory.
Last night I slipped through time to a parallel dimension
You were alive and happy
Our children played in trees
Were strong and wise
And knew no fear
We watched them play together
Somewhere everyone is happy
Somewhere fish do not have bones
Somewhere gravity cannot reach us any more
Somewhere you are not alone
The optimism gains strength in the closing verse, where Jarvis repeats the closing line several times as if it were a magic mantra:
Somewhere in a parallel dimension
Happening now but not within your sight
The force that binds the universe together
Everything is gonna be alright
Everything is gonna be alright
His last repetition clearly expresses a deep desire that the human race will eventually find away out of the mess it created.
I am not optimistic about the future of our world but I still hope for something like a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth or a miracle goal a few seconds before time expires. The only way that’s going to happen is if people start facing the ugly realities of our world, and we need people like Jarvis Cocker who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. Though The Jarvis Cocker Record suffers occasionally from so-so mixing and mastering, the lyrics, arrangements and the star performer are more than enough to compensate.
Now. Without resorting to violence or doing anything stupid . . . how do we get rid of the cunts?