Jarv Is ... : Beyond the Pale review – Too much art, not enough commerce
Beyond the Pale
Rough Trade Records
Much like his performance at last year’s Electric Picnic, anyone expecting Jarvis Cocker to flick through the back pages of Pulp on his first album of original music since 2009’s Further Complications will be in for a disappointment. Instead, the Sheffield songwriter and cultural gadfly hones his spoken-word capabilities and channels various spirits, including the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and other crooners cocooning in the lounge bar of the Twin Peaks Hotel.
Cohen’s spectral presence is all over the opening track, Save the Whale (“You think I’m kidding, you have misunderstood, can’t you see, I’m up to no good, save your breath, save your soul, embrace the darkness...”), which mutates across almost five minutes from doleful at-death’s-door musings to music torn asunder from The Specials’ Ghost Town.
It carries on like this throughout, mixing music that is both undistinguished and low-key with characteristic smart wit. “I don’t wanna dance with the devil, but d’ya mind if I tap my foot?” Cocker speak-sings on Am I Missing Something.
Ultimately, Beyond the Pale amounts to yet another creative deviation from an artist whose life has been full of them, and while it really doesn’t capture the strength or essence of previous work, its success hinges on the differences between commercial proposition and art project. For better or worse, Cocker’s heart is attached to the latter.