Surely the only singer/songwriter album where you'll find rousing sea shanties alongside conversational, acoustic hip-hop and shouty folk-punk, New Jersey-born, Devon-raised troubadour Cosmo Jarvis' second album, Is the World Strange or Am I?, perhaps answers its own question with its highly unusual, eclectic sound. Eccentric it may be, but the follow-up to the equally ambitious double-album Hum as You Hitch/Son of a Bitch, shows that there's substance to his style, as the homophobia-addressing, hearty singalong "Gay Pirates," recently championed by the likes of Stephen Fry and Jarvis Cocker, and the Frank Turner-esque "My Day," which sees him criticize today's youth from the perspective of his 70-year-old self, suggest the versatile singer, actor, and director fancies himself something of a "voice of his generation," a neat contrast to the schoolboy humor displayed on the summery reggae of "She Doesn't Mind" and Just Jack-style, disco-tinged "Dave's House." Of course, its schizophrenic nature means that Jarvis runs the risk of being a jack of all trades but a master of none, as the swirling ballroom organ-led garage-rock of closer "Betty" and the plodding indie landfill of "The Talking Song" suggest rock certainly isn't his forte, while the gorgeously woozy, Hawaiian folk of "Is the World Strange?" and the infectious banjo-plucking surf-pop blues of "Sure as Hell Not Jesus" -- the former of which includes one of several Mike Skinner-esque stream of consciousness raps that are peppered throughout the album -- shows its lack of focus isn't to cover up any musical shortcomings. Is the World Strange or Am I? is indeed a little too strange to achieve the commercial success Jarvis has admitted he craves, but it's an admirably bold statement of intent which is perhaps unlike anything else you'll hear all year.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien