The Deal: Second solo disc from ex-Pulp singer.
The Good: In the acrimonious Blur vs. Oasis battles of the '90s, I thought the clear winner was Pulp. Jarvis Cocker, the band's lightning rod front man, was better-read and less loutish than the Gallaghers, but more open about his appetites than Damon Albarn. The result was a spot-on blend of erudition and dissolution, cynical wit and rock star excess, and his solo records suggest he's grown quite comfy into the role of culture curmudgeon. On the best tracks here, like the soulful, Bacharach-flavored rocker "I Never Said I Was Deep," Cocker plays the clever devil convincing you he's vapid while seducing with elegant word-play: "I never said I was deep/but I am profoundly shallow/my lack of knowledge is vast/and my horizons are narrow." The title track recalls the Pulp classic "Common People" while taking the piss out of celebrity, and Cocker captures the creeping unpleasantry of May-December lust in "Leftovers." Even the Holland/Dozier groove is impeccable on the sexed-up "You're In My Eyes (Discosong)."
The Bad: Steve Albini produced in Chicago, and the rockers bear his fuzzy stamp. Whether that serves a riff-based shortie like "Angela" or "Caucasian Blues" – which comes off as an uncomfortable mix of A Hard Day's Night-era Beatles, Never Mind the Bullocks and size-matters machismo – is debatable. In general, Cocker, now in his late 40s, hits the right note of mid-life desperation on the ballads, where at least the complications are the ones he intends.
The Verdict: When good, very; when bad, not very.