Electric Six and Jarvis Cocker: Bringing the Raunch

I went over to the world’s coolest CD store (even though my daughter Erin no longer works there), Vinyl Fever, and sold some CDs, bought some CDs, and even came out ahead in the cash-flow department.

The CDs I bought are, coincidentally, linked by their somewhat raunchy, grind-it-out approach to the music and lyrics. For Electric Six, on I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master, this comes naturally–from a disco/funk/garage rock perspective.

(Not everything on this blawg is appropriate for minors or adults. If you object to wackos in Roman armor having wild party fun, don’t watch this video…)

If you’re familiar with other Electric Six CDs, you’re not going to find much different here, and that’s actually a good thing. Through sixteen tracks, the band brings the groove, unabashedly giving us lyrics like “we’re slashing fares on lucifer’s airlines” and “she liquifies the living to feed to the dead.” and “he’s hot tonight he’s hot tonight randy god tonight he’s god randy the hot side of randy”. But, honestly, do we really care what the lyrics are? Besides, between “burning 50 million megawatts of gasoline” and “show me your sexy trash but don’t go making any moves that agitate my rash,” how can you not but laugh in appreciation at the insanity of this band? Especially when the music is so damn good. Do they take themselves seriously? Lyrically, I’d say…no. But in terms of the musicianship…they’s damn fine musicians. And having seen them live I can tell you that…wow. They bring the show.

As for Jarvis Cocker, his previous solo CD was a bit of a disappointment. It had some of the Pulp trademarks in terms of the lyrics–incisive, ironic, and at times sexy–but musically it was a mixed bag. After a few listens, I traded it in. However, on Further Complications, produced by Steve Albini, Cocker trades in cool for raunch and, in general, a directness that serves him well. At times, he seems to channel early Bowie to good effect. On others, he just brings the guitars, as on tracks like “Angela”. In fact, it’s only when he slows down, as on “I Never Said I Was Deep” that we feel like we’re hearing a Pulp B-Side. Others, like “Homewrecker!” absolutely shine, with its rollicking saxophones and insane garage rock influences.

But the clear head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest song on this CD is F**kingsong, which just absolutely kicks ass. There’s no other way to put it. I could listen to this song all day. It works on the level of the personal, in terms of relationships, and it works on the level of the relationship between a musician and his or her audience.

I will never get to touch you so I wrote this song instead
Thinking about you lying in bed, it’s gonna get inside your head
And it’s the best that I can do, this is the closest I could get
So let it penetrate your consciousness
Oh oh oh oh yes

Oh, turn it up, turn me on, I’m feeling good but don’t get me wrong
I know it’s just a song

And every time you play it I will perform the best I can
Press ‘repeat’ and there I am, and there I am, always glad to be your man
And this way, oh well there won’t be any mess
As I assure you that there would be in the flesh
This is my very, very best

Turn it up, turn me on, I’m feeling good but don’t get me wrong
‘Cause I know it’s just a song

Always eager, always ready, always in tune and always primed
And I’m always there for you, and I’m always on time
Unlike in real life

Turn it up, turn me on, I’m feeling good but don’t get me wrong
No, don’t get me wrong, don’t get me wrong ’cause I know:
It’s just a F***king Song

This from Cocker on the pulpwiki: “I bought a new guitar when we were in Los Angeles and I came up with that mindless riff on it. By writing songs you can metaphorically f**k a lot of people at the same time. This song is about how that’s probably the best way to have a relationship. A song always performs its best each time whereas with a real person, sometimes they get drunk and can’t perform at all.”

I think the thing I love about this song is how it walks that fine line between stupid and transcendent. I mean, some people will think it and the riff are totally ridiculous. And, you know what, that’s totally fair. In fact, the riff could’ve come off of an Electric Six song, to be honest. It’s exactly the kind of raunch they’ve perfected. But for Cocker to take the chance makes it a lot more interesting, to me.

The same sense of taking risks permeates the whole CD. There’s the sublime right next to the totally stupid. “Leftovers” is another good example, which begins with the line “I met her in the museum of Paleontology & I make no bones about it” and includes this: “I want to love you whilst we both still have flesh upon our bones–Before we both become extinct.” This really makes no sense at all, even as extended metaphor it’s ridiculous. And yet, when you hear him sing it, you don’t automatically go: WTF. So I like that about the CD–I like that it’s over the top and yet not over the top, and that Cocker often gets beyond the sumptuously produced songs that have made his name but also been a trap for him at times.

But both the Cocker and the Electric Six are worth your time. Maybe we take Electric Six’s crazy raunch for granted by now, but we shouldn’t. Nor should we dismiss Cocker turning in some off-the-wall riffs and crazy-ass lyrics. In both cases, there’s something alive at the core of the music.

(Only video I could find–it’s got some problems…)