After a quarter-century fronting vastly underrated Britpop act Pulp, Jarvis Cocker makes his debut, delivering the best British solo turn since Elvis Costello left the Attractions behind for King of America. Like Costello, Cocker's become quite the literate pop craftsman, and nary a song goes by that isn't gilded with a catchy hook or inescapable vocal melody. Cocker scores repeatedly whether renovating Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover" for the writhing lust of "Black Magic," or warning "Don't Let Him Waste your Time" to some bouncy Britpop. He mixes things up with tracks such as "Baby's Coming Back to Me" which crawls along, driven by xylophone like a classic late '50s Bobby Darin ballad, or the noisy, punkish "Fat Children" which sounds like the Jam setting Swell Maps afire. Often Cocker seems to be channeling the folk-inflected songwriter pop of the early '70s, really the perfect sunny complement to songs such as "From Auschwitz to Ipswich," where he sweetly croons, "Evil comes, I know from not where/but if you take a look inside yourself, maybe you'll find some in there." Indeed, as dark as Cocker's wit is, it requires pop this winning. This infectiously cynical album is appropriately capped by the grand, U2-ish hidden track, "Cunts Are Still Running the World."
Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.