The pairing of Jarvis Cocker and Steve Albini--the producer of this second Cocker solo outing--is an interesting one. Though known more for his hard rock sound (Nirvana, The Pixies and The Auteurs), Albini has also helmed LPs by the likes of Low and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. On Further Complications he helps Cocker achieve a neat balance of tough-edged Brit-rock, electro pop and searing soul. Opening with the rattling title track, Cocker swaggers through the buzzing "Angela", the loping, krautrocky instrumental "Pilchard", the energetic, sax-led "Homewrecker!" and the punky "Caucasian Blues". These impressive upbeat missives are offset by wry ballads like "Leftovers" ('I met her in the Museum of Paleontology / and I make no bones about it') and "I Never Said I Was Deep". Mundane tracks like "Fuckingsong" let the album down, but they’re few and far between and in any case redeemed by the wonderful finale "You’re in My Eyes,", a tune that returns us to Pulp’s disco/funk obsessions. --Danny McNamara
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Perhaps it was inevitable that Jarvis Cocker would find no peace in domesticity. It may have treated him well for a brief period, resulting in the quite brilliant mature pop of his 2006 solo debut, but no other pop star has been as singularly sex-obsessed as Jarvis, so it was just a matter of time before his attentions wandered elsewhere...and so they have on his wildly depraved second album, Further Complications. Right from the start with the thumping "Angela," Jarvis has flesh on the mind, just as he did during the days of His 'n' Hers with its songs about sisters, virginity, and fetishes, but where those songs were underscored by the vague melancholy of somebody who has only glimpsed his fantasy and frets that he will never see it again, the songs here pulsate with perversion, a middle-aged man making damn sure that he's going to get with a tight 23-year-old body yet again; it's the sound of a fetishist turned sexual omnivore. Fittingly, the sound of the record is completely changed, with only the closing "You're in My Eyes (Discosong)" echoing back to the louche, languid urban fantasies of "Deep Fried in Kelvin." The rest is all gnarled, ugly hard rock, dredging up ghosts of the Stooges and the Spiders from Mars, dressing them in stylish second-hand clothes that are razored to ribbons by Steve Albini's typically unflinching production. Under his cold glare, all the madness of Further Complications is pushed right to the surface -- all the stuttering, slashing guitars, Steve Mackey's wailing sax, Jarvis' obsessive, compulsive carnality. If he has any regrets leaving the settled bohemian pop professor of Jarvis behind, it only surfaces on "Slush," a dirgelike meditation on global warming overshadowed by the hedonistic riot of Further Complications at large, a record that does its best to live up to Cocker's "never said I was deep, but I am profoundly shallow" proclamation. He's denied his id for too long, so the dam bursts here and it's impossible not to happily wallow in the flood of filth unleashed by Further Complications.
The madcap video for "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" off of Jarvis Cocker's 2006 solo debut had our square-framed hero playing world's worst taxi driver while giving a young lady some sage advice. "Cause the years fly by in an instant, and you wonder what he's waiting for," he offers. "Then some skinny bitch walks by in some hot pants and he's running out the door." While the one-time Britpop sex god was almost definitely speaking from experience, the song took on a professorial tone. This is a guy who's done almost all there is to do in rock-- from toiling in the 1980s to exploding and then coming down with Pulp in the 90s-- and, on Jarvis, he seemed ready to look back on a winning career with equal parts despair and whimsy. Despair because he's a 40-something rock'n'roller who's smart enough to know what that can look like, and whimsy because he's Jarvis Cocker. Age looked and sounded good on him; he was growing into his elbow patches well.
Alas, Cocker's life of peace is not to be. "Further complications in store, yeah!" he yelps on the opener here, introducing a cracked and wily album markedly more invigorated than his previous solo effort, but not always for the best. An abundance of ill-advised facial hair along with songs titles like "Homewrecker!" and "I Never Said I Was Deep" suggested it, and then tabloids confirmed it-- this is a breakup album. But Further Complications isn't one of those maudlin, woe-is-me affairs (as if Jarvis was capable of such mawkishness). It's a jutting, joking, hard-riffing jolt filled with raw self-deprecation. He's not blue-filtered and contemplative on his album cover, he's scrunched up against stark white, like the goofy aftermath of a Robert Longo drawing. "If every relationship is a two-way street, I have been screwing in the back whilst you drive," he admits, arching his brow while holding an antique magnifying glass up to his own inadequacies.
The line is from "I Never Said I Was Deep", the album's clearest contender for a future comp. On it, Cocker plays a game with the listener, i.e, how unsympathetic can he make himself while still drawing adoration from his audience? "I never said that I was clever," he croons on a hook that's quite clever. "My morality is shabby, my behavior unacceptable," he self-critiques later on. But right before you can think, "C'mon Jarvis, don't beat yourself up, man," he delivers both the song's thematic peak and its narrative nadir: "No, I'm not looking for a relationship-- just a willing receptacle." The sentiment is damn near unforgivable, but Cocker survives it unscathed. Elevated, even. Backed by woozy, nonchalantly soulful instrumentation, the song is a thinking man's anti-thinking anthem and it's several kinds of genius.
When the lanky frontman allows his current rawk jonze to take over, things get a bit pricklier. For someone famous for his dramatic flair, enlisting producer Steve Albini was not the most obvious choice. And it's not like the austere, anti-reverb studio rat was going to adjust his style for Jarvis-- the dry Albini snares and unfussy live-ness is well in place. Thing is, Jarvis can't quite pull off some of these herky jerky Stooge-y tracks. (On record, at least-- several songs here came off much better with Jarvis gesticulating furiously during his U.S. tour last year.) While his songwriting remains funny and incisive at 45, ostensibly ballsier numbers like "Fuckingsong" and "Angela" veer dangerously close to bar-band boneheadedness. I know, I know: He never said he was deep. But still, Jarvis Cocker can't start popping-out largely wordless motorik like "Pilchard"-- a song he apparently "never got around to writing," according to a recent interview-- and expect to strut away scot-free. A move like that is more unforgivable than a thousand Wilde-style put-downs.
"Kittens are cute, but a full grown cat can be cuter," sings Jarvis on the easy listening ballad "Hold Still". It's wishful thinking, even for a guy facing middle age with heaps of respectably bold fearlessness and a solid head of hair. On Further Complications, Cocker is a wreck-- a sometimes amusing ("Leftovers"), sometimes profane ("Fuckingsong") jumble of anger and concession. "In the beginning there was nothing, and to be honest that suited me just fine," he growls on the title track. But Jarvis isn't meant for a quiet life. He's too good at turning social pratfalls into proletariat art. He still hasn't figured things out, and he's coming to terms with the fact that he never will. "It's a complicated boogie, and I don't know any better," he screams on the title track. He sounds frustrated, but he shouldn't be. There are only a few songwriters who can make life's technical dance moves seem like such a worthwhile pursuit.
— Ryan Dombal, June 2, 2009