Jarvis Cocker’s loft is full of tat. So is his book. Good Pop, Bad Pop is a nice play on words and a memoir that plays with the function of its genre. To avoid recounting the past with idyllic, tinted nostalgia, the former Pulp frontman ascends into the attic and drags out moments from his life and discusses them throughout his autobiography. He paints a picture using moments leftover in the loft, and that is a far better way of exploring the past than relying on a jaded memory hoping to present the ideal version of the past. Cocker spoke about it during an interview at his recent art exhibition, the fear of filling in the blanks of the past because reflection inevitably covers over the truth.
The “hard evidence” of a fully lived life are found in Cocker’s attic, and not every item is of note or use. Good Pop, Bad Pop is an interesting experiment in reader patience and narrative formula. It is an inventory of a loft in the home of a vaguely interesting star, and to the outsider that doesn’t care for the early days or career beginnings, Good Pop, Bad Pop will still hold some interest. The writing style is intimate and open. Cocker insists that “we” are in this together as he ascends the loft and pulls out more than a handful of juicy pop star life details, as well as the mundane, everyday items that were lost upstairs yet flesh out the background of a bloke responsible for some cracking tunes. But Cocker skims that Britpop era, not actually touching on it. A letdown for those that wanted it, but what replaces it makes up for it and even casts a wider, more interesting net.
Good Pop, Bad Pop takes the form of a strange game of keep or cob (throw away) as Cocker sifts through the loft. He tells of stories that are sincerely interesting for those interested in him, and bafflingly strange but charmingly intimate for those that are not. He talks just as much about the creative process and the origins of Pulp as he does the day-to-day life and background of his varied career, and it makes for a homely explanation of oddities and bits of what is initially perceived as a bit useless. But everyone has that item they hold onto for no reason beyond sentimentality. The broken bit of tech or the halfpenny moulded in plastic. It isn’t all just spotty items, though. They are tied together by an old textbook which houses the “Pulp Manifesto,” scribblings from a 15-year-old Cocker who envisioned a long-term plan for a band he had, at the time, not even started.
There is a thrill to reading up on and engaging with the items in the attic. It feels personable because of how broad an idea it is, that each person should sift through their loft and clear it out. A chore is turned into a celebration of the life lived so far, and Good Pop, Bad Pop is the very best of that. Is there much difference between inspiration and obsession? Cocker doesn’t seem to think so, and he documents that process well throughout his inventory checklist of beliefs, innovations and tat. Heavy on the anecdotes, but those anecdotes divulge the fear of creative impotence, the blistering high of uncovering an item its user is nostalgic for and the highs, lows, woes and creativity of pop music.