Jarvis vs the common people

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The Independent Online
Who cares about Oasis? Jarvis Cocker is the best thing to have happened to popular music since I was 17, which is at least 21 years ago. Different Class was not only the best album of last year, it is one of the best ever. Anyone who thinks otherwise either hasn't listened to it, or utterly lacks taste. And anyone who thinks assertions like that are idiotically adolescent - well, that's their problem.

At least it's not the Mercury Music Prize judges' problem. Few events this summer have been more heartening than their decision to pass right by Oasis and place Jarvis on the pedestal that he would absolutely refuse to stand on. Indeed, he absolutely did refuse to stand on it - he got off, and put War Child on it instead. And that's another reason why he's wonderful: he publicly gave away the winnings without piety, or self-congratulation, because that's just what he does.

Jarvis Cocker is witty, self-deprecating, human. Anyone who provokes the News of the World headline "JARVIS LOOKS LIKE A TRAINSPOTTER BUT HIS LOVING DROVE ME LOCO" deserves a thousand awards. A man who writes a song fantasising about how a blue plaque might mark the place he first touched a girl's breast is not only ironic, he is absurdly and humanly true about the daftnesses that spin around inside the heads of arrogant, foolish boys. He remembers exactly what a prat you were at 19 - lonely, horny, embarrassed, irritating, soppy, selfish - all those things that young people actually are, but couldn't possibly admit to at the time. "Mother," he sings, "I think I left a part of my brain/Somewhere in a field in Hampshire." He's stoned, and talking to his Mum?!

Deflation is the English art, and Cocker is its musically poised master. That's why he bumbled on to Michael Jackson's Britpop set and straight into my hero list. As he put it, "anyone setting themselves up as a messiah figure is a bit dodgy". Being touching and wry at the same moment is the quintessential Jarvis expression - with an artfully timed pause. ("Want to sleep with Common People?/I (pause) I'll see what I can do.")

But instead of adulating this modern hero, our colleagues and competitors have devoted miles of newsprint to boring Oasis. Let's get it straight. Oasis are second-rate. They are (or were) briefly amusing, catchy, derivative, noisy, poppy, and not very good. They should not be long missed. Noel Gallagher can't write a sustained lyric. Liam Gallagher is tiresome, and we've seen him all before. Most of the young people I know who really like Oasis are aged 11 and under. They'll get over it - and then they'll be free to listen to Pulp.