Pop Playground
J’Accuse: Jarvis Cocker

here’s a visualization exercise for you. Try and picture a world where people, for some reason, really, really cared about that blonde chick from Baby D. Not just cared about her, but treated her as a figurehead of her genre, taking the words that she regularly said as gospel; broadcasting, printing, and analysing them over every print zine, blog, and radio show. And all this has had a really bad impact on the blonde chick from Baby D. She’s become arrogant, bloated from her own fame. The words she says in interviews are utter rubbish, an embarrassing mix of pining for a time when she was relevant and an ill-advised, undeserved attempt at positioning herself as the gatekeeper and judge for all new dance acts to pass through. Imagined that? Well, you’re probably thinking, “But Baby D haven’t had a hit or been remotely relevant for over a decade, and there’s no hope of them making a non-humiliating comeback. Why on earth should I give a flying fuck about them, her, or her stupid opinions? Why are people insisting on listening to what that blonde chick from Baby D has to say?”

In all fairness, you can’t really compare Baby D vocalist Dorothy Fearnon to Jarvis Cocker. Baby D were a much more successful band than Pulp, earning a number-one hit and more top five singles. Look, Jarvis Cocker is an utter fucking embarrassment to music and himself. Up until maybe six months ago, the most pathetic man in the industry was frontman of 1980s synth-cabaret act Dollar, David van Day. Van Day was a man convinced of his act’s place in the firmament of British music even when his career had slipped to the point where he was working in a waffle stall on Brighton beach. He then compounded matters by going on tour under the name Bucks Fizz, despite never having been in the former Eurovision winners. Cocker’s performance over the past year makes Van Day look like the very model of dignity.

When Pulp’s career spluttered to an ugly end in the early 2000s, they meant absolutely nothing. Hits, their “best of” compilation, charted at a majestic #71 in November 2002, during what is traditionally the peak time of the year for compilation albums sales. To put things in perspective, at the time of writing this article the last band to have an album chart high of #71 were those über-successful modern-day behemoths of the zeitgeist, 36 Crazyfists. If Pulp had continued their career to this point, they would be just about worthy of a support slot for Kittie.

But you can argue this isn’t about Pulp, it’s about Cocker. Fair enough. Cocker’s debut solo album, modestly entitled Jarvis only managed to get to #37, three places ahead of All Saints’ Studio 1, a positioning so poor as to get them dropped from their label. And they didn’t even have the benefit of an extensive billboard and TV advertising campaign that Cocker did.

It’s hard to know what the worst thing about Cocker is. The man was named “special guest editor” for an issue of Observer Music Monthly a few months back. He used the issue to a) plug incessantly and give positive reviews to a no-hoper band a friend of his was in b) give himself a positive review c) conduct a “roundtable discussion” on the future of music. Now, that sounds pretty interesting, right? Musicians always got a lot of shit to talk about. Get them around the table, pour a few glasses of Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay down their throat, and you’ve got yourself a pretty interesting article right there. At least you can be guaranteed no hidden agendas from an article like this. Let’s see who was sitting around the table:

Jarvis Cocker (signed to Rough Trade)
Antony Hegarty (signed to Rough Trade)
Beth Orton (signed to Rough Trade Management)
Anthony Genn (signed to Rough Trade Management)
Mary Margaret O’Hara and Nick Cave (the two main acts featured on the, at the time, just released Rough Trade: Singer Songwriter Volume 1 compilation)
Paul Morley (was already in the office and didn’t ask for expenses to go to the interview site)

So Jarvis Cocker turned what’s meant to be a music magazine, perhaps the last remaining critical medium where people are supposed to express honest opinions, and turned it into an extended advertising brochure for himself, his friends, and more disturbingly, the company that pays his wages.

Jarvis Cocker is a whore. Not a whore for money (but he’s that as well), but a whore for attention. Take a look at his appearance at the Brit Awards. He was there to give an award to Britpop revivalists, the thalidomide children developed from the deposits he and his peers left back at the sperm bank back in ’96, the Fratellis. You can probably think of many words to describe The Fratellis. Jarvis chose “ice-cool indie rock.” I’m sorry, are you a 30-year-veteran of recording music or the listings writer for Croydon Free Advertiser? To make matters exponentially worse, he did this while doing an impression of Jimmy Saville and then took part in a hilarious skit with the Fratellis themselves where one of them mooned him, à la his brief moment of fame a decade back. To get any reaction, he has to go back to the one trick he tried to run away from all this years ago. Jarvis Cocker is the “I Didn’t Do It” Kid of indie rock.

His interviews mine the same tired seam. Half of the time it’s him trying to run away from his past—a recent interview with The Trip Wire seeing him claim of “Britpop” that he “hated that term and never considered Pulp to be a part of that.” This would be the same Jarvis Cocker of the same Pulp who were the feature attraction of the TV show Britpop Now, alongside Menswe@r and Marion. Seemingly Cocker never thought to mention his antipathy towards the movement when there was money to be made out of it, but now that it’s a dead genre, it’s open season.

He’s at his worst when he’s playing judge, jury, and executioner for every contemporary indie act, especially when his tastes range to praising the Fratellis and hanging out with the Gossip and CSS in what appears to be a PR ploy copied from when David Cameron spent the afternoon with Rhymefest. Cocker on fellow douchebag Johnny Borrell: “Reading an interview with Razorlight is just like reading The Economist.” Cocker would of course know all about reading The Economist, being as he is the star of adverts for such friendly indie, ethically operated, consumer orientated companies as British Telecom and Natwest. This is the guy who sang “Fuck the morals, does it make any money?” The fact that Cocker can then turn round and accuse any band whatsoever of being careerist is a level of rank hypocrisy that I don’t think has ever been achieved by a pop star before.

Cocker has one direct descendant in indie today: Preston from the Ordinary Boys. A man who’s only in a band because he wants, needs to get his face on the television in any way he can. Preston prostituted himself out to reality TV, Cocker turned up on Stars In Their Eyes. Preston throws his toys out of the pram when panel show hosts don’t pander to his whims; Cocker has a similarly over-inflated view of his own importance, intelligence, and levels of respect. When Preston’s career started entering the dumpster, he suddenly found himself a celebrity girlfriend to get himself in the papers; Cocker similarly reacts to each new low his popularity sinks to by finding some way of grabbing those column inches by whatever means necessary. And we don’t need either of them around. At all.

“Cunts are still running the world” went the lyrics to the lead single off his stillborn last album. Presumably there weren’t any mirrors in the room when he wrote that.

By: Dom Passantino
Published on: 2007-03-09
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