The pulp of their 1984 debut It isn't the pulp for any of us. And beJarvis Cockeris notourNeither does Jarvis Cocker. He's an awkward, fresh, and oddly serious young thing messing around with upbeat folk music and wishy-washy new wave, contemplating puppy love and magical lighthouses and other such nonsense. No, no: let's go, you and me, past It and instead to the freaks of 1986, where the real pulp begins to take shape. Post-It, Cocker was so upset that he considered quitting pop music and went to university instead. But after meeting violinist and guitarist Russell Senior, he instead began weaving a new vision for Pulp — darker, weirder, more experimental, and with more bite — that would cast out its old, insipid spirit. Freaks isn't perfect, but it's a start, and on songs like Master of the Universe you can hear a strange and special band emerge. It's a creepy, dirty ditty, like a seedy version of Hammer horror with its hammy synths and cockers that sound like a dirty vicomte. "Lift your eyes and brush your knees / Oh, for your master is unhappy," he grins, and if he's not yet the witty, winning charmer he would later become, he's at least far from the milksack of removed earlier.
My Legendary Girlfriend is Pulp's very own big bang: the perfect explosion as all that promise and potential burns up in a brilliant technicolor flash until about six minutes later, all that's left is a gorgeous pop band. Originally recorded in 1989 for their third album Separation, a mix-and-match LP with one side devoted to conventional songs and another inspired by acid house, it didn't hobble through 1991, but it always made it nor to boost Pulp's career. Its genius lies in its fusion of elements; the way various atoms collide and set off strange chemical reactions, from the verse's menacing, club-like groove and spooky keyboards to the chorus' glittering synths that bubble and fade like Roman candles. Refusing to remain rooted in the same place, Cocker switches from naughty whispers to frustrated squeals as he spills the beans over a one-sided affair gone wrong. "Sneaking slowly past the cooling towers...abandoned factories, looking for an adventure," he says, trying to inject some somber romance into their moonlit stroll. But there's no way to embellish the sordid truth: "My legendary friend, she's crying tonight / Oh no, she doesn't feel right / She's got nobody to hold." A sophisticated, seductive, and delightful indulgence.
Ah, gloating. Every line of Razzmatazz twitches with sly victory — and every line is a classic, too — as Cocker, cast as a hapless loser dumped by his girlfriend because he wasn't glittery enough to crow about her turn. It's the little flourishes that make everything so delicious: just watch how in the second stanza he begins to dissipate the details that suggest how dull and predictable her life has become. "Three weeks after I left you, you started getting fatter," he tells her scornfully. "Now you're going out with a kid who looks like a bad comedian / Do you go out, or do you sit at home and eat boxes of milk trays / Watch TV alone." She dropped him for excitement and glamour; She opts for EastEnders and coffee cream instead. "I saw you at the doctors waiting for a test," he later sings — and at this point, as much as he feels unfairly treated, it's hard not to feel a little compassion for his unlucky ex, when one thinks how rotten things have gotten. "You tried to look like some kind of heiress but your face is such a mess / And now you're going to a party and you're leaving alone." A supreme pop single, with its twisting, dark, disco-laden melody impeccable flavored with Cocker's spirited, withering vinegar.
What makes many of Pulp's best singles so enchanting is that they unfold like little short stories, full of odd narrative twists and endearing characters, with Cocker coming across as a sort of northern JD Salinger. Take Babies, the standout track from 1994's brilliant breakthrough His 'n' Hers, and one of Cocker's best stories of all time: a seedy but sweet tale of a perverted boy who becomes obsessed with his boyfriend's sister during sex listening until he's so mesmerized that he starts sneaking into her closet so he can watch too. "She came home 'round four," Peeping Jarvis sings over this beautiful, sparkling melody with her glamorous guitars. "And she was dating a boy named David, from the garage up the road." And then it all twists and turns into an absurd triangle between Cocker, his disapproving boyfriend, and her nymphomaniac sister: the older girl sees him as he of Spied out of the closet, they start to get hot and heavy, and then they rumble in the act. "We were on the bed when you got home / I heard you stop outside the door," Cocker whines. "I know you won't believe it's true / I only went with her because she looks like you." It's less of a song and more of a mini-pop-opera, or an odd kind of Bildungsroman: one Coming-of-age tale of lust, betrayal and regret about a teenager's transition from sex-stricken fledgling to guilty villain.
A precious gift from His 'n' Hers that demonstrates the full power of Pulp beyond the hits. And on an album that's often so cynical and gruff, from the untidy jumble ofDo you remember the first time?to the lost seduction game ofLipgloss, it's unashamedly simple: lovely and lonely, as Cocker sings from the perspective of a young girl whose heart has been shattered for the first time. Musically it sounds like a sad fairy tale, all crashing cymbals and shimmering keyboards like a theme for a Disney princess trapped in her bedroom in Sheffield, while Cocker's lyrics convey that mix of teenage mortal angst and trying to grow up , catch that only comes with your first real breakup. "She enjoys watching the moon move through the sky / Because she's heard it's romantic, although she really can't understand why," he sings. But that witching-hour heartbreak is oddly comforting compared to the misery of the day: "The sun was making it hard to get through and the radio was only playing love songs, so she was crying," he adds, and one would have to have a heart out wretched stone that must not be washed away.
It's done nowDismiss Britpop as a time for Ludditesjust mindlessly whirring guitars, like gormless monkeys, puzzling over how to use their opposable thumbs to form a barre chord. But Pulp and songs like Mis-Shapes are a reminder that the young culture was big and the rest just an ugly coda, and that before it was all devoured in the belly of the rowdy beast, there were glorious paeans to outsiders and the lunatic . Here, on the opening track of 1995's "Different Class," is Cocker's manifesto for the awkward: an anthem for the freaks and geeks who can't go to town, lest they "end up punched in the mouth just because." they attract attention". It comes across as a tongue-in-cheek musical number, with its rousing, rampaging riffs. "Brothers, sisters, can't you see? The future is yours and mine,” Cocker declares, before targeting stubborns and thugs with an encouraging call: “We want your homes, we want your lives, we want the things you won't let us / We won't use guns , we won't use bombs, we'll use what we have more of - that's our minds.' It's an intellectual coup, a nerdy spring that's as compelling today as it was then.
Different Class has not only made Pulp one of the biggest bands in the mainstream; it also made Cocker a beloved celebrity; the down-to-earth prankster who made fun of haughty people wherever he found them, whether they were rich tourists from Greece or pop stars with Messiah complexes living in Neverland. But for all the fun, from the biting satire of the common people to the seedy humor ofSorted by E's and Whiz, there are also moments of bitterness.underwear, for example, is one of the saddest, unsexiest songs about fucking ever, a filthy and limp lament of muffled loins and sizzling passion. And the great F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. is Cocker at his most pathetic, fallen so low he can't even make fun of himself or anyone else. Like many of Pulp's best songs, it looks for inspiration well beyond standard guitar pop or indie. It's not lovesick, it's lovesick as it switches queasy between those dingy, banging keyboards that crawl along like the ramp of a rickety rollercoaster, and then suddenly plunges into the chorus. Cocker doesn't sound much healthier either. "I feel a little sick in my stomach," he murmurs creepily. "Like I'm standing on a very tall building / All that stuff they tell you about in the movies / But those aren't boxes of chocolates and roses." He's right: that's true love, and it sounds like fun as hell.
Yes, it's a terribly predictable choice. But to omit "Common People" would not only be contradictory and exhausting, it would be flat out wrong: It's Cocker at the peak of his powers, camouflaging biting social commentary and class observations with wicked humor and setting one of Pulp's catchiest anthems of all time . As a single, it's flawless: that cheesy, powerful keyboard melody; screaming at the top of your lungs of a refrain; a classic opening phrase ("She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge / She studied sculpture at St the worst of times". But perhaps the greatest testament to the power of common people is how they transcended Britpop or the '90s and is as relevant today as it was then. In fact, this song is needed more than ever, now as gentrification and renewal are spreading and communities and cultures are being wiped out by wealthy poseurs who aim to drive it into the slum."But you will." still never get it right,” Cocker fumes, “because if you lay in bed at night watching roaches climb the wall / If you call your dad, he might stop it all.” It's an immortal answer to the ruling classes who born of righteous desperation: You may never be able to reason with the blind ignoramuses, but you always can still confront and ruthlessly fool around.
Pulp's masterful trick of losing fans and alienating Britpop cattle, "This Is Hardcore" was overkill for many who had been won over by "Different Class". It's darker, uglier, more seedy, and more experimental. Or, as Cocker puts it on opening track The Fear, "That's the sound of someone losing the plot / You'll like it, but not much." The title track in particular has none of the cheeky romance of yore, and Cocker does Being sleazy is like catching your favorite uncle surfing dirty websites. "It looks like I saw you in a teenage wet dream / I like your makeup, if you know what I mean," he snaps, over piano and cinema strings that could have been lifted from something X-rated. There's also a simple parallel between the shabby reality of pornography (which "men in stained raincoats pay for") and Cocker's own disillusionment with the pop star and his public persona. "Put your money where your mouth is tonight / Leave your makeup on and I'll leave the lights on," he says, then boasts, "That's me on you / And I can't believe it." has taken me so long." It's not about sex, it's about power, narcissism, achievement and ego, and it's as dark as it gets.
The naysayers will no doubt scoff at the fact that After You isn't on the same gold standard as Pulp at its best and is less worthy of inclusion here than, say, Disco 2000 or Lipgloss. But this isn't about sound, it's about spirit - and Pulp's 2013 comeback single, released 10 years after their original split, rings with the same adventure, ambition and fearlessness that made them so popular in the first place . We Love Life, the 2001 follow-up to This Is Hardcore produced by Scott Walker, was the band's final album and they remained inactive until re-forming as a live band in 2011. Those reunion shows were magical and wondrous, and for most bands that would have been enough. After all, there's no need to sully nostalgia and goodwill by trying something stupid. But this is Pulp, a band whose raison d'être is to try something risky when others would duck and conform. And so, with After You, Pulp take a song they first demos more than a decade ago but give it a 21st century twist with LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy producing an insane warehouse banger while Cocker London preaches about an extravagant end of the world in the east. "On the last night on earth when the horses run free / The scriptures foretell a party in Hackney," he sings. "In a dimly lit room filled with loathing and hate / They're selling their souls and I can't wait." Even now, 30 years after their debut, Pulp are here: always forward-looking, always special-sounding.