Frequent collaborations with Wes Anderson are gaining momentum for Jarvis Cocker, whose work with the Asteroid City director has proven fruitful once again. They hit what may be their peak together on The French Dispatch with the delicate, affectionate cover of Christophe’s Aline. The Tip-Top record to come from it, Chansons D’Ennui, spiralled Cocker into a moody little set of Parisian charmers which shoot listeners back in time. Much the same comes from the collection of works he provided to the most recent Anderson piece, and You Can’t Wake Up If You Don’t Fall Asleep feels both out of step with the world around it and intimately connected to the fears of dreaming big. Such is the point of Asteroid City, and so comes a phenomenal collaboration between Cocker and Sheffield legend Richard Hawley.
Whispered under a delicate, finger-plucked guitar, this piece from Cocker finds him at home with a style some may feel he left behind in the mid-2000s. His bombastic approach through the Jarv Is project has heard loud wails, sexualised kitchen counters and a retrofitting of his earlier works into brash numbers stuffed full of violins. You Can’t Wake Up If You Don’t Fall Asleep has nothing of the sort. It has the same spirit of late-stage Leonard Cohen, the raspy voice replaced by weedy inspirations in the hopes of sending a listener into the caverns of their mind. Cocker croons his way through a desperate song urging those listening to plant the seeds of their future and to reap it when they can. A fair summary of what to do with yourself, especially when ripped from the 1950s Americana backdrop Asteroid City provided.
While the buzz may still surround Dear Alien (Who Art in Heaven), the real focus should be on this delicate, banjo-featuring beauty. Jean Yves Lozac’h’s inspiring blend of banjo work provides a beautiful lead course through the Hawley-featuring piece. His guitar work is identifiable, crisp and immediately enjoyable, as it so often is. Collaborations between the former Pulp frontman and frequent Arctic Monkeys collaborator are always a treat, and hearing Hawley move toward the film and stage presence his music so clearly lends itself to has been a real treat. The Olivier Awards winner leaves his mark on this one, even with Cocker’s name plastered at the front. Sheffield burns through this piece by making an entrance and brandishing fear as a way to leave a mark.
All of that comes from a little piece featured in an Anderson film from 2023. These last two features, which see Cocker come aboard to offer his likeness and his lovely tunes, have seen the musician outperform the director. Tender and earnest works like this are a throwback to a time when Cocker was putting his heart in the firing line and masking it with no metaphors or manic mixes. He does so now, but the results are tantalising. Stripping his words back to the essentials is a wild treat for those who remember The Jarvis Cocker Record and all the delicate licks and riffs featured on there. Hawley was around for it too, and it is no surprise he brings out the best in the Common People legend when film work becomes the task at hand.