The 10 Best Britpop Albums of All Time (or At Least Since 1993 or So)

Oscilloscope Laboratories
Flying high: Jarvis Cocker and Pulp
True, the glowingly reviewed new Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets has bowed humbly out of NYC-area theaters -- though it is, ahem, available for rent or sale via iTunes -- but in any case our bet is that the Sheffield lads' doc signals just the tip of a looming iceberg. Surely, with Britpop's best-regarded exponents and their seminal records approaching 20-year jubilee status, we're in store for a whole lot more retrospective feting: reissues, remasters, deluxe editions; would a Justine Frischmann tell-all be too much to hope for?

Anyway, the presumptive coming flood led us to reflect on what "Britpop" even is, or encompasses. To keep things (relatively) brief, it's: bright, melody-forward, commercially intent guitar-band pop-rock; unabashedly British, of course, in pub-singalong sensibility and/or deployment of accent; and, crucially, for our purposes here, limited to post-'92 or thereabouts (the interregnum betwixt shoegaze and, well, Radiohead), meaning the some-might-say criminal exclusion of the progenitive Smiths and Stone Roses from consideration. All of which, naturally, then led to our wondering: If you absolutely gun-to-head had to choose, given these parameters, what would a list of 10 Best Britpop Albums of All Time, Ever, look like?

So, without further ado...

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A Father's Day Mix Of Songs With Mixed Feelings About Fathers

Every May, there's no shortage of mawkishly sentimental songs to play on Mother's Day, but a month later, there are comparatively few Father's Day equivalents. Sure, there are some treacly tracks like Bob Carlisle's 1997 adult-contempo hit "Butterfly Kisses," but fatherhood is more often than not invoked in pop music as a discomfiting sexual metaphor (see "Big Poppa," "Father Figure," and the countless songs that feature the phrase "who's your daddy?").

The best and most enduring songs about fatherhood tend to explore darker and more complex themes, or depict imperfect or absent dads, rather than provide sunny theme songs: "Cat's In The Cradle," "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone," even Everclear's "Father of Mine." This Sunday will be the third Father's Day I've celebrated since becoming one myself; I have a good relationship with my father and am deeply devoted to my son. But I'd rather listen to the songs on this Spotify playlist, and others that explore the complexities and unpredictable gray areas in the bond (or lack thereof) between a man and his son or daughter, than hear goddamn "Butterfly Kisses" again.

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The Seven Best Things Jarvis Cocker, Probably The Greatest Frontman Of Our Time, Said Between Songs At Last Night's Pulp Show

Jarvis Cocker.
Last night Pulp, the masters of turning the miniature into anthems that shake the rafters of even open-air concert spaces, played their second of two shows in New York City, their first gigs in our city since 1998, when the band played the Hammerstein Ballroom. Their potent blend of creamy synthpop hooks and Jarvis Cocker's wry commentary on romance, class, and sex was, as I pretty much expected, absolutely thrilling even though their last album, We Love Life, is 11-plus years old; the vitality present in even the band's less anthemic songs, like the hangover squint "Sunrise," coursed throughout the room. Leading the way was Cocker, who I last saw with a green-painted face belting out bare-bones, self-lacerating sex jams. Last night he was in louche-professor mode, posing foppishly on the big beats, swinging his hips just so, drawling out the wistful lyrics of anthems about chances not taken, fizzled relationships, and muddling through the physical and emotional aftermath of drawn-out nights, and—most importantly—doling out aphorisms between songs as if they were delicious, decadent truffles. He didn't quote the Wikipedia entry about New York the way he paid tribute to Chicago when I saw him solo at the 2008 Pitchfork Music Festival, but he was still full of pearls of wisdom and notable factoids. And I wrote a lot of them down, mostly because I was too busy dancing like a fool during the actual songs to take proper notes; here are the seven best that made it into my notebook.

7. [While introducing "Something Changed," a sweet love song about the unpredictable nature of romance] "It would be rubbish if we knew when these things would happen... You haven't come here for a night of spoken word, have you? Sorry."

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Dancing With Jarvis Cocker: A Member Of The "Who's Zoo" Troupe Tells All

Judy McGuire
Editor's note: This weekend, Jarvis Cocker performed at the Whitney Museum in his Relaxed Muscle guise as part of the choreographer Michael Clark's "Who's Zoo" residency. The performance brought together dancers both trained and amateur, and Seattle Weekly's Dategirl/The Official Book Of Sex, Drugs, And Rock And Roll Lists author Judy McGuire was one of the lucky people who got a crash course in dance. In honor of Cocker's band, Pulp, beginning its two-night run at Radio City Music Hall this evening, we got her perspective on being involved in the performance.

We were called "zombies" and "klutzes" by the Post and compared to an "encroaching plague" by Gia Kourlas at the Times, but the reality is, we were sculptors, writers, lawyers (okay, only one), painters, trendspotters (again, only one), entry-level assistants, actors, students, filmmakers, bookmakers, art dealers and historians, and the un/under-employed. We were the "non-dancer" element in choreographer Michael Clark's "Who's Zoo" residency at the Whitney Biennial.

Why would non-dancers be part of a dance performance? Well, I never really got a firm answer to that, but I've been a fan of Clark's since I saw a documentary about his company—including the late Leigh Bowery—dancing to the Fall back in the '80s. So when I heard they were looking for volunteers I signed on immediately. The only requirement was that one had to be able to sit down on the floor and get up quickly. I might not be able to entrachet, but I sure can stand up.

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Live: Relaxed Muscle Gets Real At The Whitney

Who's Zoo? feat. Relaxed Muscle
Whitney Museum of American Art
Saturday, April 7

Better than: Another Monday morning.

The Scottish choreographer Michael Clark's body of work has been about marrying opposites—underscoring his works with the music of the Fall and David Bowie, mingling professional dancers with amateurs onstage. In his just-completed residency at the Whitney Biennial, Clark continued those themes with Who's Zoo?, an abstract, yet charged performance set to songs by Pulp and Relaxed Muscle, two bands led by the singer/songwriter/DJ/author/all-around artistic overachiever Jarvis Cocker.

Pulp (whose reunion tour makes stops at Radio City tomorrow and Wednesday) is florid and expansive, creating anthems out of situations both small and grim; best known here for its withering putdown of class tourism "Common People," the band's last three albums (Different Class, This Is Hardcore, and We Love Life) are absolute treasures, chronicling the painful aging of not just Cocker and his bandmates but of a generation burned out on the hedonism it embraced if not wholeheartedly, then at least willingly enough to indulge in more than their fair share of excesses. Relaxed Muscle—which released one album, A Heavy Night With... (Rough Trade), in 2003—isn't Pulp's polar opposite, but it's much more suited for a club basement than a Glastonbury headlining set; while it retains Cocker's trademark wit, its songs are bare-bones, riding on the barely disguised erotic energy coursing throughout them as much as their music. "Sexualised," in which Cocker sneeringly reels off a list of those parts of the world that erotically charged (basically, everything ever) over grinding guitars and a relentless dance beat, probably sums up their world view best.

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Pulp Is Playing Radio City Music Hall On April 11

The reunited Pulp—the brilliant Britpop act led by Jarvis Cocker, and responsible for anthems, dirges, and songs that somehow managed to blend the aesthetics of those two forms—is bringing the reunion tour that started last year to New York City. This morning the band announced that it would be playing Radio City on April 11; while on-sale details are scant at the moment, this is a fine excuse to post a bunch of videos of the band. Just another Monday morning, indeed. UPDATE: Tickets go on sale this Friday, January 27, at 10 a.m. ET. The videos are still below!

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Pulp Reuniting For Festivals in 2011

pulp reunion.jpg
Jarvis Cocker's Pulp will return for a run of summer festivals in 2011, including Spain's Primavera Sound and London's Wireless Festival, the band announced Monday morning. Along with Cocker, the line-up will feature regulars Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Steve MacKey, Russell Senior and Mark Webber. For more details, come this way...

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