Book Review: Good Pop, Bad Pop

‘What if the things we keep hidden say more about us than those we put on display?

Jarvis Branson Cocker. A hero of my misspent youth. Leader and founding member of Pulp – a band that have soundtracked pretty much every drunken night of my entire life. Singer of songs. Teller of stories. Faller through windows. All of the above. I’ve been to see Jarv in the flesh twice in 2022. Firstly, playing music at Sheffield Octagon and secondly, in conversation at the Sheffield Crucible to promote his new book Good Pop, Bad Pop: Not a Life Story but a Loft Story. As part of the very generous ticketing deal for that show, I also received a copy of Cocker’s debut book, and it is a joy from start to finish.

Good Pop, Bad Pop sees Cocker taking an inventory over his life, his loves and a number of items that have been stored in a loft in London for two decades. The premise here is that Jarv shares a number of items with the reader, some of them sacred (a ticket stub for beloved Sheffield nightclub The Limit), some of them rubbish (a Margaret Thatcher commemorative mask), and decides whether to keep or cob them (cob being South Yorkshire slang for chucking something away). The result is a languid stroll through Cocker’s childhood through to Pulp being on the precipice of fame. There is nothing from their ’90s heyday, but this is a book about Jarvis Cocker, not about Pulp. That being said, there are plenty of Easter eggs scattered liberally throughout Good Pop, Bad Pop that will keep long time fans happy, and Cocker’s breezy conversational style is as irresistible on the page as it is over the airwaves (as any listeners to his wonderful BBC Radio 6 Music shows will attest to).

Cocker’s relatively late-in-life ascent to the pop music crown is relatively unique in the annuls of British pop music, and this book serves as a wonderful companion piece to a life long obsession to pop music. It’s a compelling and frequently hilarious stroll through Cocker’s various droll observations and odd eccentricities and for fans of Pulp, Jarvis Cocker, pop music, life, love and laughter, it is essential reading. It’s even more satisfying if you imagine it being read in Jarv’s dulcet Sheffield tones. Like a warm bath.

As expected, whatever Jarvis Cocker chooses to turn his hand to, he’s always interesting. Good Pop, Bad Pop is no different. I loved it.