"I'm not Jesus, though I have the same initials," sings a melancholy Jarvis Cocker on the song "Dishes." He's not David Bowie either, but he has similar sensibilities, at least the kind from the "Hunky Dory" era. There's a Bowie-esque expansiveness in both Cocker's lyrics and his accomplished band's warmly lush music, though it's filtered through a firmly '90s aesthetic and through the mature recognition that he--and the peers that he reaches out to--are no longer all the young dudes.
In "Dishes," a meditation on the fact that he's lived longer than Jesus with no grand accomplishments to show for it, Cocker shrugs off the lost dreams of youth in order to relish real life: "I'm not worried that I will never touch the stars," he sings. And in "Help the Aged," sentiments that might sound cynical from someone else ("One time they were just like you, drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue") are full of compassion and the simple knowledge that we all get older.
While the tunes and arrangements soar in a way that bespeaks Big Themes, Cocker keeps his attention on the small things that truly matter, and thus he elevates them. It's a neat trick associated with such English predecessors as Pete Townshend and Ray Davies. And if not exactly messianic, it is a fine achievement in what is turning out, after 15 years, to be a nicely evolving career.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).
Hear the Music
* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips