At first, hearing Steve Albini’s production of Jarvis Cocker’s excellent new album is like finding out that your beloved aunt, the one who introduced you to Fellini and Wilde, had a fling with your favorite science teacher, the one who showed you how to explode sulfur in a tub of water. You love them both for completely different reasons and kind of wish they had never crossed paths.
Neither Cocker’s chewy structures nor his voice’s subtle shadings are particularly well suited to Albini’s you-are-there engineering. Fortunately, this collection of surging and reeling tunes is the former Pulp frontman’s strongest since Different Class. Tall, bearded, and suavely funny, dude still has a mighty tight pimp game; you just have to listen more closely to appreciate how tight that game is. Distorted chordings open the title track as Cocker delivers panicked aphorisms (“Your life is just a carrier bag!”), while “Pilchard” gives Jarvis the guitar blowout we never knew he wanted.
“I Told You Twice (Leftovers)” opens with his dodgiest pun ever (“I met her in the Museum of Paleontology and I make no bones about it” — oy vey), yet destroys his prey through smoothly direct macking (“I want to be your lover”-sure!). Better than anyone, Cocker knows that common people were once cosmic dust; no wonder he can talk us into anything.