I went to your gig in Sydney on Monday night at the Metro. It’s forty-eight hours later and well, I can’t stop thinking about you.
For the bookish teenage girl who discovered you whilst doing work experience at the newspaper, this would have meant something far more innocent.
But now that I am pushing thirty and – good grief – have a PhD in gender and cultural studies, there’s ever so much more to consider than your sexy voice, your way with words, your dreamy optometry and how isn’t it funny that you look a bit like my boyfriend. (Well, you didn’t then, because I didn’t have a boyfriend then. But you catch my drift).
His name’s Dave. He was at the gig too. Afterwards, we held hands in bed and reflected on our night with you and a good few hundred other fans.
Jarvis, what’s up with your audience? Were they always like that; always more Glastonbury laddish lout than T-in-the-Park library lass? Dave thinks it’s inevitable, and reminded me that the different audience members are going to connect differently to the words and pictures as they flipbook on stage.
You demonstrated your mastery of the art of representing injured masculinity – you do rueful self-deprecation most manfully. In doing so you of course recoup some of the power whose loss you ironise (in this, you’re one of many thin white dukes, no?). I guess that explains the diversity of masculinities on display Monday night, as well as the preponderance of particularly thickset gents (you know what I mean- set in thickness: if not in body, at least of carriage).
There were three in front of me and my chums. We nicknamed them ‘The Wall’. Emma pointed out that when one of them left to get a beer refill, the other two morphed to ensure that the space remained completely filled out. It had the feel of cockblocking about it, let me tell you – perhaps they were less a Wall than one of a number of Cock Blocs dominating the theatre. At any rate, I am five feet tall and I have astigmatism. Fortunately the Metro has those sightlines you mentioned.
I’m sure there were always Cock(er) Blocs at your gigs (I was rarely cool enough to find myself at one, Jarvis – my likes include reading and sleeping; dislikes, crowds and shopping). But on Monday night I thought there were more than there should be, and I’m afraid your more recent image lends itself to such tableaux.
Lately, you are about bones and fucking and dinosaurs, and making grizzled overtures to leftover cuddles from hot girls in their twenties. You’re playing the fallen, driven man; “trapped in a body that is failing me” (it was Tom Waits’ sixtieth birthday as you pointed out, and Leonard Cohen aches in the parts where he used to play). You manage to put this vulnerability across amidst an amazingly agile and effusive performer-presence.
The Cock Blocs loved it. You spoke to their Caucasian Blues. With jutting jaws and oi-oi fists, they responded enthusiastically to ideas of using women and avoiding emotional engagement. They likewise seemed to have the most cynical possible reading of Running the World (or maybe I was just rattled by earlier references to Ipswich and Auschwitz. We do have an Ipswich here, and it positively radiated disenfranchisement and other-hating in the late nineties).
There was this silly competition in Australia earlier this year. It was to compile ‘the Hottest 100 songs of all time’. Anyway, Common People was in it, at number 81. Candida Doyle was thus one of the “only women to appear in any notable capacity”.
Pulp was so utterly dance-able, and you wore much girlier makeup. Darren Spooner took the piss out of the phallus head-on. I always loved your ostensible androgyny, Jarvis. I feel sadly unsure that you would, for example, rock this man-gran look again:
Mostly I’m not sure because of all the power chords. Like really, what’s with them? Is it because of what this guy said about you in The Guardian? Well if it is, you can tell Bee (a) Man to go fuck himself, because a man called Sean Maguire says your set was “muscular and thrashy”.
Anyway. This is an open letter. I’m not looking for a response to these thoughts, just a willing receptacle for them. Exhaustive analysis is boring; your performance needn’t and shouldn’t be mapped, revealed, exposed. As you’ve recently suggested, art is interpretative. And I think maybe you share an index with Stephen Birch and Gilles Barbier.
PS. What did you think of The Full Monty? J.K. Gibson-Graham says it generates hopeful class and gender politics.
PPS. Do you still like your tea with just the one lump of sugar?