❉ Weird, wonderful and arguably the most We Are Cult-friendly compilation ever.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the good folk at Ace are really knocking it out of the park with their thoughtful, eclectic themed compilations.
Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service is a fine addition to the canon. Curated by Cocker himself and drawn from selections played on his much-missed Sunday Service show on BBC 6Music, it’s arguably the most We Are Cult-friendly compilation ever. It even seems to bring a psychosomatic whiff of that comforting musty smell that comes with crate-digging – which is not to be sniffed at, but breathed in.
Opening with Cocker’s Sunday Service theme music, the otherworldly treated cocktail jazz of John Baker’s Invasion Muzak (a familiar stock cue for any ’60s Doctor Who fans) kicks off a 23 track, 80 minute voyage into the Sunday subconscious. Everything is up for grabs in Jarvis’s world. Glacial claustrophobia (from cult 60s folkie Tim Rose – originator of doing Hey Joe slowly instead of thrashing the shit out of it at 160mph like Love, The Leaves, and The Byrds all did) rubs alongside epic sadness (Antony & The Johnsons’ bereft deconstruction of Crazy In Love) and quirky steel drum funk (The Katzenjammers’ happy version of Gary Numan’s Cars).
There’s a huge amount to discover, from languid easy-listening (a velvet-voiced Miss Morgana King) surprisingly steely soft rock (criminally-unsung ex-Fleetwood Mac man Bob Welch), wonky rockabilly-glam (The Legendary Tigerman), bawdy balladry (Jake Thackray) and faintly terrifying music for children’s interpretative dance from BBC Records and Tapes (David Cain’s still-bewildering The Seasons).
Jarvis’s bag has some surprises in it too. Nina Simone’s Baltimore is strange, but powerful calypso – while on Waters Of March, the not-notably un-expressive Art Garfunkel single-handedly invents the expressionless monotone delivery of any number of DIY indie singer-songwriters decades before it entered vogue.
Cocker even adds a couple of his own, stirring but faintly disturbing, Blue Jam-esque cut-ups to the mix. The Interrogative Mood sees him softly asking a series of dada-ish questions of the listener (“Are you disturbed by over-technical shoes?”) over polite muzak. Towards the end, there’s a striking mash-up of Christopher Hitchens speaking on religion with backing by The Phoenix Foundation. Perhaps most affecting of all is the gorgeous, but genuinely weird choral version of Neil Young’s After The Goldrush by The King’s Singers.
It ends with Headless Heroes’ yearning 2008 version of Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You In The End. A perfect, yearning ballad, it’s leant extra poignancy by Johnston’s sad passing – sketched out in rickety tinkertoy shades with what sounds like children’s instruments (the guitarist’s game impression of Dave Gilmour aside). At the end, there’s a brief fade before Jarvis comes on mic and exclaims “That’s right!”
Weird, wonderful, and sometimes just plain heartfelt and beautiful, this compilation feels like a labour of love. Considering 6Music’s increasing recent steer toward fairly yawnsome celebrity-based “Here’s some old mainstream indie records I brought in” shows, it’s a fantastic memento of more-interesting Sundays past and is well-deserving of your time.
❉ Various Artists: ‘Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service’ released by Ace Records, 27 September 2019. Pre-order from Ace.
❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Martin Ruddock has written for ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, ‘Shindig! Magazine’, the ‘You And Who’ series, and David Bowie charity anthology ‘Me And The Starman’ (Chinbeard Books, 2019).