After waiting well over a decade to enjoy commercial success, it was a bit of a shock when Pulp embarked on such a high-profile and deliberate fall from grace with their next LP.
The fact speak for themselves – flop albums in 1983, 1987 and 1992 before gaining a degree of popularity in 1994 with His’n’Hers. And then it was 1995 and the release of Different Class which eventually sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone – a quite astonishing feat for a band who up until that point had only ever had two Top 40 singles/EPs in their career.
While it is true that Different Class rode in on the tails of the Britpop era that saw pop music become fashionable again and part of everyday culture, it doesn’t detract from the fact that it is a cracking piece of work (albeit not as cracking as His’n’Hers in my humble opinion).
But all was not well in Pulp-land. When they went back into the studio to begin work on the new LP, with all the hopes and expectations of not only the record label but also an adoring public, there was nothing happening. Jarvis Cocker couldn’t come up with any words or tunes, and even more crucially, guitarist, violinist and key member of the band Russell Senior decided to leave.
The band eventually managed to record new material, and the first thing to emerge was the single Help The Aged in November 1997 which was about as far removed from the chant-a-long songs which had led to so many folk embracing the band. At this stage, it might still have been regarded as a one-off Cocker-like prank to choose the most awkward and difficult of the new songs to be the lead-off single, but it became clear in March 1998 with the release of the next single that Pulp were going to lose a lot of mainstream fans and not get many new recruits to replace them:-
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore
mp3 : Pulp – Ladies’ Man
mp3 : Pulp – The Professional
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (end of the line remix)
This was difficult and uncompromising stuff of the highest or lowest order, depending on your point of view. But it’s too easy to dismiss it as a song about porn…it could easily be interpreted as Jarvis using sex and sexual imagery to attack anyone in power, whether it be the captains of industry in the likes of film, music or newspaper or indeed on politicians who had, for a while, gotten off on Britpop only to walk away when the musicians started dishing out the criticism.
But whatever the intentions behind the song, it remains one of the bleakest and yet most brilliantly subversive bits of music ever to have been played on the radio, climbing to #12 in the UK charts. Hell, it even managed an appearance on Top Of The Pops.
The b-sides were hugely uncompromising and self-mocking and then to top all of that, CD2 had some astonishing remixes to further confuse everyone:-
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (4 hero remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Swedish Erotica remix)
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore (Stock, Hausen & Walkman’s remix)
Enjoy. I certainly do.