Tim Badger is back again with another marvellous contribution to the series…..
Way back when Britpop was all about Blur vs Oasis, the really cool kids chose Pulp. In Pulp the nerdy kids had a hero, Jarvis Cocker. Cocker a literary and gawky frontman became a sex symbol, famous for peddling a mix of disco and cheesy 80s synth sound with a sideline in frankly pervy lyrics. It is perhaps more clear now than it was at the time that he would define a generation. That generation being the Britpop era. Pulp had been around in varying forms since the early 80s – and yet didn’t really come to real attention until 1993, the year Cocker turned 30 – and it was perhaps this that stood them apart, a sense of mature wit and a different outlook.
In Pulp’s songs, the topics were more adult and realistic, the sex was dirtier and less satisfying, the relationships more fractious and they had characters that you identified with because we’d all been there. This compilation is made up from their three most successful records ‘This is Hardcore’ in 1998, ‘Different Class’ in 1995 and ‘His n Hers’ in 1994. I wanted to include the track ‘Like A Friend’ from Great Expectations OST but I can’t find the CD I have with it on. Sorry. It would have been Track 2 on Side 2
I should perhaps take a moment to acknowledge ‘We Love Life’. This is a gorgeous, expansive album that is much under rated. I tried to get a song on this list but just couldn’t fit it in. It would have been ‘Sunrise’ and it would have ended the compilation. I love that record but it isn’t ‘David’s Last Summer’ which does end the record. The strength of their three album run from ’94 to ’98 is just too overpowering. I’d also point you towards the B-Side of the single This is Hardcore called ‘It’s a Dirty World’ which also should have made this Compilation, but again got shunted by the others.
1. Babies (from His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)
After about ten years the wilderness, Pulp emerged with this tale of teenage tea time obsession. It begins innocently enough with Jarvis talking about afternoons with girls in bedrooms – before he goes well a bit perverse and then delivering this withering punchline “I only went with her ‘cause she looked like you!”
2. F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. (from Different Class, 1995)
There was a real war going on between whether it was going to be “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” or “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” that made it on this list and the latter almost won based purely on that awesome synth thing that happens about two and a half minutes in. But in the end I went with this (and forgive me if I leave out the .’s and just call it ‘Feeling’. This is one of the most bizarre songs Pulp ever did – it sounds like Jarvis is coming down from a bad trip but in reality it’s just a bad case of obsession. Lyrically its amongst the best (and claustrophobic) that Jarvis ever wrote and the way its bursts into the chorus is virtually theatrical.
3. The Fear (from This Is Hardcore, 1998)
“This is the sound of someone losing the plot/ Making out that they’re okay when they’re not/ You’re gonna like it, but not a lot/ And the chorus goes like this.” With that line, Pulp delivered the bleak mission of their darkest and most personal work ‘This is Hardcore’ . After finally becoming the celebrity Jarvis was always destined to be – I think he realised that he didn’t want after all – he was in danger of turning into a 1990s equivalent of Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs. Unusually for a Pulp track, the keyboard sound of Candida Doyle is hardly there on this song and is replaced by guitars. Sure its bleak but it’s probably their most rewarding song.
4. Disco 2000 (from Different Class 1995)
How many of us can identify with this. The wild expectations of childhood infatuations which come crashing down in adulthood. Everything from the shameless ripping off ‘Gloria’ from the 80s to the wonderful lyrics of this make this songs essential. Disco 2000 is a pretty much like a school disco on record. A magnificent tribute to the one that got away.
5. Pink Glove (from His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)
For me this is the highlight of Pulp’s breakthrough LP and nicely sets out the band’s stall as social commentators with a sordid twist. The object of our narrator’s affections is desperate to please her man – but she should be with our Jarvis, who’d have her just the way she is. Bless.
1. Common People (From Different Class, 1995)
Quite simply one of the best British singles, ever, by anyone. Absolutely their defining song, and the classic song of the Britpop era. I toyed with the idea of leaving it off just to be controversial but then I realised that I can’t write about Pulp without mentioning it. It’s too good a record. As a song it scathing yet hilarious, deeply personal yet turns an eye to larger social questions, intelligent yet simple enough to fit within a massively infectious pop melody. And to top it all triumphant enough to close a live show.
2. Do You Remember The First Time? (From His n Hers’, 1994)
Jarvis the lounge suited Romeo reminisces about his first love to whom he is now a distant memory. The thing about this song, when you strip away the melody and the soaring chorus, is that, it is one of Pulps more powerful moments, its urgent, yearning and ferocious but yet fragile, like it would fall apart if you nudged it too hard.
3. This is Hardcore (from This Is Hardcore, 1998)
Clocking in at over six minutes, this is a sordid tale of secrets buried in PVC raincoats. Its sounds indescribably sinister. It s adopts a late night vibe and a raft of distorted guitar riffs that eventually gives way to strings and sounds so utterly dejected. One of the saddest Pulp songs around and probably the closest thing that geeks have to ‘Sexual Healing’.
4. Something Changed (from Different Class, 1995)
Yes, another single, sorry it is single heavy, yet, what singles they are. Something Changed is Pulp at their sweetest, with Pulp pondering fate, chance and relationships. When you look at love songs, 99% are clichéd drivel, but this is in the 1% that stand out.
5. David’s Last Summer (from His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)
The glory of Pulp is that they don’t really feel like a band who just stitch songs together – nor do they just build to crescendo and stop. They fell like stories unfolding, often narrated and this is perhaps the best story they recorded. Jarvis sings “Drunk on the Sun, I Suppose” before shouting “I Want you to Stay!” as the violins and distortion overcomes him. You never find out why this was Davids Last Summer, I’m guessing that it was a song about the loss of youth or perhaps a person, but it’s the greatest ending of an album that I can think of.
mp3 : Pulp – Babies
mp3 : Pulp – F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E
mp3 : Pulp – The Fear
mp3 : Pulp – Disco 2000
mp3 : Pulp – Pink Glove
mp3 : Pulp – Common People
mp3 : Pulp – Do You Remember The First Time?
mp3 : Pulp – This Is Hardcore
mp3 : Pulp – Something Changed
mp3 : Pulp – David’s Last Summer
JC adds…………….Pulp were on my list of bands to feature in this series and my ten wouldn’t have been too far removed from Tim’s offering. I can however, provide a bonus track for him given that he wanted to include it on the LP but didn’t have the song to hand:-
mp3 : Pulp – Like A Friend