On my radar: Jarvis Cocker’s cultural highlights

The musician and broadcaster on the original Batman, the music of Cat’s Eyes, the importance of the BBC and the beautiful game

Born in 1963 and raised in Sheffield, Jarvis Cocker founded Pulp (then called Arabacus Pulp) at the age of 15. Between 1983 and 2001 they released seven studio albums including His ’n’ Hers and Different Class. In 1996 Cocker made headlines by invading the stage during Michael Jackson’s performance of Earth Song during the Brit awards. Since Pulp’s split in 2002, he has released two solo albums, The Jarvis Cocker Record and Further Complications. In 2010, Cocker began presenting Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service on BBC Radio 6 Music, and in 2011 was appointed editor-at-large by publisher Faber. His 7-inch soundtrack EP to the forthcoming TV series Likely Stories was released on 20 May on Rough Trade.

1 | DVD

Batman

batman and robin
The original… and best? Adam West (right) and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin. Photograph: Allstar/20th Century-Fox/Sportsphoto Ltd

The eventual release of the 1960s Batman series on DVD last year was something I had been awaiting for a long time. I was obsessed with the show as a kid. Now I have been inflicting it on my own son – isn’t that one of the perks of parenthood? You can rewatch stuff under the pretence of creating a “bespoke cultural environment”. Not all the episodes are great but it mostly stands up. If you want to see a spot-on representation of the Donald Trump “phenomenon”, watch the episode Hizzonner the Penguin: the Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City with a campaign aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. Batman attempts to stop him, reasoning: “If our national leaders were elected on the basis of tricky slogans, brass bands and pretty girls, our country would be in a terrible mess, wouldn’t it?” Hmmmm. Tim Burton incorporated this storyline into his 1992 film Batman Returns which is also well worth re-viewing. If only for the exploding penguins. Batman rules.

2 | Film

Victoria

frederick lau and laia costa in victoria
One-take wonder: Frederick Lau and Laia Costa in Victoria. Photograph: Allstar/Radical Media

I had this down as a one-trick pony – along the lines of that film from years ago that featured “real” sex (Romance), but luckily my girlfriend persuaded me to overcome my in-built prejudice against things that I have no actual knowledge of whatsoever and I really enjoyed it. In case you don’t know, the “gimmick” is that the film is shot entirely in one take – but this film is far from being a dry, technical exercise. The fact that the story unfolds in real time really makes it feel like you’re on one of those nights out when everything gets a bit messy and out of control (not that I do things like that any more, you understand). And when the plot line eventually kicks in, things gets very intense. Great acting from Laia Costa and Frederick Lau. And a good score by Nils Frahm – plus an awesome rave track by DJ Koze at the very beginning. Have it.

3 | Music

Unloved/Max Richter/Cat’s Eyes/Daft Punk & Junior Kimbrough

cats eyes pop group
Imaginative instrumentation: Cat’s Eyes. Photograph: PR company handout

While we’re on the subject of “having it”, here’s some music I’ve been enjoying lately. The Unloved album is David Holmes’s latest project and it’s got a great, murky yet song-based feel to it.

Sleep by Max Richter was the Sunday Service album of 2015. He performed a truncated version of it at the Barbican this month which was great to drift off to. The LED stage lights in the main hall were a bit annoyingly bright though – or maybe that was on purpose…

Cat’s Eyes have been producing great music with very imaginative instrumentation and arrangements for a while now. The Duke of Burgundy soundtrack was fab – so is this new album. And the video for Drag makes me laugh in a slightly uncomfortable way.

The Junior Kimbrough track is a re-edit of one of his songs done by Daft Punk. It came out on Record Store Day, is 15 minutes long and is the sexiest piece of music that I’ve heard all year. Oh yes.

4 | Art

Hilma af Klint/The Museum of Everything

paintings by hilma af klint
Supernatural talent? Works by Hilma af Klint at the Serpentine Gallery, London. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

The Hilma af Klint show just finished at the Serpentine Gallery. They were big abstract paintings from the beginning of the 20th century. She claimed that they had come to her through the seances she attended regularly. James Brett (head honcho of the Museum of Everything) organised a symposium at the College of Psychic Studies in South Kensington to discuss the idea of artistic inspiration coming via “supernatural” means.

The Museum of Everything is dedicated to exhibiting the work of Outsider Artists, many of whom also claim that the impulse to create comes from some mysterious external location. I don’t know if I totally agree with that – but I do know that the harder you consciously will yourself to create something, the less creative you are actually likely to be. You have to “get out of your own way” somehow. Some might call it “zoning out”, others “going into a trance” – but great ideas seldom come when you are concentrating. So some people consider them to be a “gift of heaven” or messages from the Other Side – but I guess you could just as easily attribute them to you gaining access to the right-hand side of your brain: the bit that houses your unconscious. Anyway, that’s my excuse for sleeping so much. Zzzzzz.

5 | Radio

The BBC/Radio 3

rob cowan of radio three
Rob Cowan of Radio 3’s Essential Classics. Photograph: Jude Edginton/BBC

While we’re skirting the subject of religion: I made a speech at a radio conference in Salford back in 2012 where I stated that I thought that the BBC was the nearest thing the UK has got to a national faith. I would stand by that statement. Think about it: an all-encompassing entity that is there to entertain and educate you at all stages of your life, that has your best interests at heart and isn’t trying to sell you anything. There’s something kind of divine about that, isn’t there? I used to twiddle the dial and hear bits of Radio 3 and think, Oh, I’m not ready for that yet, but now, years later, it’s still there and I love it. Especially Rob Cowan’s Essential Classics on weekday mornings from 9am. I’m a believer.

6 | Football

Sheffield Wednesday Football Club

sheffield wednesday fans
Up the Owls: young Sheffield Wednesday fans at Hillsborough. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

If you had told me six months ago that I would be including something football-related in my list of cultural highlights I would have laughed in your face – but things have changed. I went to pay my last respects to my father recently and one of the few things he responded to in his enfeebled state was when I mentioned Sheffield Wednesday. And when I showed him a picture of my son sporting the full Wednesday kit he looked proud enough to burst (I guess that, in his confusion, he may have believed my son was actually playing for them). Something as simple as a football team provided a link across three generations of a family. And realising that made me re-evaluate my attitude to the game.

I guess football has always been a barometer of the times: the takeover of Manchester United was a perfect manifestation of the unacceptable face of modern capitalism, for instance – but this has been a good year, hasn’t it? Leicester proved that it doesn’t all just come down to money in the end and, closer to home, the final findings of the Hillsborough inquiry have proved that you can’t hide the truth for ever. Object lessons from a game involving 22 men kicking a bag of leather around a field – who’d have thought it? Up the Owls.

Contributor

Jarvis Cocker

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