If Pulp's excellent set at Radio City Music Hall still isn't quite good enough, blame it on Jarvis Cocker, the Eurotrash man who should know better, getting Stephen Malkmus syndrome and putting a setlist steadfast in its conservatism. It is the Pavement reunion of 2012: everything you want to hear and less.
Sporting a newat beard but with oily hair, in a stunning gray suit, Cocker came, saw and conquered with the sort of hard work that looks somewhat effortless. And you can see what is on his mind: if as a solo act, he couldn't even fill T5, we were obvious cultureless barbarians: feed the christians to the lions. Give the people what they want when you're a ma-a-a–annnn..
Pulp were the best reason to bother with the Brit Pop bands of the 1990s, a musical movement that was to the British Invasion what Tony Blair was to socialism. Pulp, a disco rock band that ffelt, like the template for LCD Soundsystems without the computers, were Jarvis Cocker's vehicle for braniac, sexually confused, dubious romanticism.or: if Oasis were the Stones and Blur the Beatles, Pulp were the Kinks Last nigh,t they were the exact same band only fourteen years on. Sporting a beard, Jarvis looked a little older but he hadn't missed a beat. hadn't added one either.
From the opening "Do You Remember The First Time" through two hours of just about perfect dance rock to "Mis-Shapes", Cocker schooled us in the correct use of soap BUT he did not school us in the way bands need to expand. Leaning so heavily on his most popular album, I don't know why Jarvis didn't simply call it Pulp Plays Different Class and have done with it. The album is a classic and deserves to played, but so are the other songs and if we are there fourteen years after Pulps last performance.
I was at that performance as well, in aid of another masterpiece, This Is Hardcore. I thought they were better back then, simply because I preferred the song selection. It is hard to overestimate Hardcore. A morning after hangover, as Cocker himself put it, on maybe his best song, "The Fear", not played tonight: "This is the sound of someone losing the plot…." The set he gave us was half the story, the bands growth between their greatest success and greatest achievement isn't scaled. No "A Little Soul" either. I don't get it. Nothing off their first three albums, only one song off hardcore, two off His 'N' Her s and the rest from Class. There is no real room for surprise. Why is Cocker on a nostalgia trip. I saw him a couple of years ago at Irving Plaza, a helluva lot closer as well, and am here to state the man can sing his new songs quite as well as his old one, and I'll make no bones about it! My point is: as good as Jarvis was, it is what Jarvis does. He is a dance machine who employs a sexual promiscuous visage to turn disco hedonism inside and back out.
What we get is a smart, loquacious rock star turn by the spiderly man, explaining himself, sometimes in detail, managing the trick of being forthcoming and above the fray at the same time. With the cracker original band, ergo, yes, bassist Steve mackay was there (but no Richard Hawley, who had just joined them at the royal Albert Hall in London)) The sound as is pseudo disco which doesn't move beyond on what the band have proven themselves capable of. The comparison is with Pavement's reunion tour with the exception of Cocker coming across as less of an asshole.
If Jarvis isn't real, he is surreal to a purpose. His biggest hit and an obscurer song finds his epigram: " dance and drink and screw,because there's nothing else to do". Sex is a palliative for ennui, and "if you hang around you'll be a man". In other words: it, like Mick Jagger, purports sex as THE metaphor for life. Aww, these art school boys; at Radio City, Jarvis quotes Kurt Vonnegut AND "Louie Louie". He worries through his diaries (though it would be a deadly mistake to consider the character anything less than a self-satirel) and discovers sex and romance so messed up he is saturated in body fluids and confusions.
Plus, occasionally gets out of the sexual politics and deals with a twingey bisarrey real politik. "Common People" is here, ""Help The Aged" isn't.
The set bangs out well and is relentlessly excellent. A "Pencil Skirt" has him acting the role of a woman peering over her eye high pencil skirt, "Sorted For E's And Wizz" changes radio City into Coachella, and best of all "This Is Hardcore" has Jarvis one part stripper, two parts porn star, three parts sex addict, with his legs wide in the air and his
But to what end? The set is stuck in a rut as problematic as the losers he sings about. He goes round and round and then stops. I wonder where, or if, it will lead Cocker anywhere. Or whether, like Malkmus, he is just tipping up the coffers before he flits back to his own life.