Jarvis Cocker – ‘EP’ Review

The Pulp frontman and foremost writer of dirty ditties has surprise-released four tracks to accompany a new TV show

When Jarvis Cocker recorded a tribute to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks and broadcast it on his Radio 6 Music show – Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service – last November, listeners dared to dream he might record new music again. Aside from some deeply experimental cuts for his 20 Golden Greats exhibition, the [a]Pulp[/a] frontman hasn’t brought out any new music since his 2009 solo album ‘Further Complications’, suggesting he’d all but retired from recording. Well, fear not, because Jarvis has returned and he’s back to his lascivious, brazen best on this four-track EP, written to accompany the upcoming TV series Likely Stories.

Based on four short stories by author Neil Gaiman and directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (who oversaw the Nick Cave mockumentary 20,000 Days On Earth), the series consists of, in Cocker’s own words, “four grubby tales set in all-night cafés, low-rent drinking dens and doctor’s surgeries”.

Cocker’s passion for Paris (where he used to live) is evident, with ‘Main Theme’ undoubtedly influenced by his hero, scandalous French singer Serge Gainsbourg. We’ve been here before of course, on all of Pulp’s 1998 album ‘This Is Hardcore’ and bits of 1995’s ‘Different Class’, but never quite to this degree of salacity. The roll call of musicians includes Portishead’s Adrian Utley on synths and Scott Walker’s percussionist Alasdair Malloy, but it’s Jarvis’s inimitable spoken word that really gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention.

“Roundheads and cavaliers,” he quivers, “adult themes and childhood fears”. Our avuncular protagonist goes on to list a baby in a jar, an old man in a car and a cow jumping over the moon – and if things weren’t surreal enough, he’s then joined by a celestial choir. It’s a cinematic and slightly troubling creation perfect for a series of small-screen psychological thrillers, but ‘Main Theme’ stands up on its own as a composition too. The remaining tracks are scaled-down variations on the same musical theme, including the creepy ‘Looking For The Girl’, and ‘Foraging’, where he recites a list of edible fungi found in Britain.

It’s been a while, but if this taster is anything to go by, you can hopefully prepare yourselves for some more vintage Jarvis in the not-too-distant future.