Published Jul 14, 2020As Jarvis Cocker enters what is technically his sixth active decade in the music industry, Beyond the Pale finds him as witty as ever, if slightly more mature. Not a solo project, JARV IS... is a full six-piece band fronted by Cocker, and while it was formed mostly as an avenue for live performance, the group took ideas and recordings from said shows, fleshed them out and created Beyond the Pale.
The songs deal with aging, change and reflections of the past — and, from a lyrical standpoint, Cocker is as strong as ever; lyrical gems like "One dark night there was a big bang, maybe a small bang, actually, more of a pop, but, whatever it was, something went off" can be found in spades.
Musically though, this album can be hit or miss. "Am I Missing Something?" struggles to justify its nearly seven-minute length, while closer and highlight "Children of the Echo" makes seven minutes feel like four. For the most part, the album grows in quality as it goes on (with the single "Must I Evolve?" standing alone as a highlight in the record's first half).
In some spots, like the mellow highlight "Swanky Modes," Cocker seems to move in the same mature art rock direction as Heathen-era David Bowie, to the point where his voice even sounds similar. But the album's constant influence from electronic sub-genres such as house and a decidedly different lyrical approach do more than enough to differentiate the acts.
While it may be far from a perfect album, Beyond the Pale is a satisfying offering from Cocker and his new JARV IS... project. The album's themes, along with the complete embrace of art rock stylings, make this far from a retread of his previous musical endeavours and a worthy listen for Jarvis Cocker fans. (Rough Trade/Beggars Group)