Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Love Life

The sorta-title track of Pulp’s final (to date) album, “I Love Life” is the most literal of the album’s songs, in its uneasy steps towards feeling good about one’s existence. The main part of the song seems to be in two keys at once, before resolving in a splurge of furious rock at the end -- vaguely chaotic, but small change compared to mid-‘80s songs like “Tunnel” and “The Never-Ending Story.”

What matter most are the details – Jarvis’ specialty, after all. There’s nothing here bemoaning a fame hangover; it’s all stuff any weirded-out person might say. “Look at these buildings and houses/I love my life, I love my life,” is positively David Byrne-esque. The bridge seems to hint at a lost set of house keys leading to the end of a love affair.

We Love Life draws a pretty mixed reaction from Pulp’s fanbase. I’ve been pretty firmly on the pro side. For a long time, I never really understood the distaste some held for the production by Jarvis’ idol, Scott Walker. However, the version of this song from last year’s Pulp: The Peel Sessions anthology does indeed garner strength from lower production values and less gloss. The spirit is closer to the ramshackle but anthemic sound the band made all their own in the mid-‘90s.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sorted for E's and Wizz

Upon its release, Pulp’s breakthrough 1995 album Different Class was thought by many to be a brash statement of intent from the misfits of the world. It seemed that the lanky, gawky, oddly attired Jarvis Cocker was the perfect vessel to deliver the message that the wallflowers of the world had united and we had every right to parties, sex, revenge, all of it.

Twelve years later, it’s pretty apparent that this is merely a superficial read on Different Class. The album really illustrates the way the freedoms of young adulthood can slowly calcify into routine as easily as any staid middle-class existence. The brash outsider who declared war on the squares in the album’s beginning is, by the end, exhausted and hung-over, one of the “broken people.”

“Sorted for E’s and Wizz” is the eighth track on Different Class and the moment where the disillusion really begins to set in. Documenting Jarvis’ brief dalliance circa 1989 with rave culture, the song pinpoints his realization that a park full of wasted kids is not the unlocking of the secrets of humankind; it’s just a park full of wasted kids. More crucially, the song describes the realization that you don’t have much in common with your chosen social scene. Add to that the sinking sensation of too many drugs and you get a literal hangover to go with the figurative one. And “then you come down,” as the chorus goes. (At the song’s end, Jarvis cleverly alters it to hammer home the woozy paranoia; “What if you never come down?”) Is it any wonder the band’s next album, This is Hardcore, detailed his descent into overindulgence and exhaustion?

You don’t need to have attended a rave to get this song. It certainly helped that it’s one the band’s most effortless pop efforts, with skipping drums, twinkling synths, Jarvis’ acoustic strums and a fantastic chorus melody. “Sorted” went to number 2 in the UK charts (watch the video here), garnered the band some controversy (see here) and was played at most (if not all) Pulp concerts from this point onward.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blue Glow

Quite possibly my favorite Pulp song released in the ‘80s, “Blue Glow” shows that even as the band was still trying to master the rudiments of songwriting and instrument-playing, they could happen upon a work of utter musical clarity like this. The members who would carry the band into the next decade distinguish themselves best. Candida Doyle sketches a simple, lonely line on an upright piano. Russell Senior’s violin rises and falls from eerie calm into frenzied panic and back again. And Jarvis Cocker matches him with a lyric that touches on what would become a cornerstone subject matter: romantic obsession in the unlikely poetic setting of Sheffield at night. As he peers into her bedroom window, the thick, black sky and the surrounding river (possibly the Porter Brook or the River Sheaf) conspire against him. This could be a work of autobiography, or it could be Jarvis playing a more dangerous, sociopathic character.