Monday, August 20, 2007

Seconds

Released in May of 1994, The Sisters EP is a friggin’ masterpiece. When Island Records wanted to re-release “Babies” as a single (it had first come out on Gift Records in ’92), the band allowed it with the provision that three His ‘n’ Hers outtakes also be included. The resulting four-song EP is a testament to Pulp’s incredible streak in the early-to-mid ‘90s.

Perhaps because Separations didn’t see release until June of ’92, two-and-a-half years after the band completed it, they fruitfully channeled their frustrations over the umpteenth setback. After all, here they were, finally in a stable, functioning lineup, with a unique sound within their grasp, and yet their progress was still being stymied. So they built up a backlog of songs that fully crystallized the classic Pulp aesthetic – sleek and stylish, yet witty and wry as well, with ‘70s glam filtered through a forward-thinking mindset. Altogether, the music was always big-hearted, clearly the work of people interested in humans, and in being human. The work the band released on Gift Records in ’92-’93 (anthologized on Pulpintro), followed by their inaugural work for Island Records, His ‘n’ Hers, and the b-sides (and outtakes that would eventually surface) represent a sustained, jaw-dropping burst of creativity.

All four songs on The Sisters EP delight in arpeggio and staccato notes. “Seconds” (track three) strikes immediately with the tense, insistent interplay between Candida’s keyboards and Russell’s plucked violin. It’s a perfect musical backing for Jarvis’ storyline; like many, it’s not about the winners or the losers, but a couple that exists somewhere in the middle, hence the title. She’s an unmarried mother (“with another on the way”). He’s simply “twisted out of shape.” They don’t get along much; they don’t even seem to be from the same planet. They will never feel comfortable in this world, nor have the chance to realize all or any their aspirations. But it doesn’t matter. The chorus positively bursts open, and Jarvis keeps the possibilities equally open. “It still feels like the morning.”

And he makes it clear that this isn’t just where his sympathies lie, it’s where his preferences reside too. “But you’re so perfect,” he sneers halfway through, to a character we did not realize existed in the song till now, someone he’s actually aiming this story towards. “You don’t interest me at all.” And on the final chorus, he lets his misfit couple reign over their ungainly landscape. “My God, they’re still alive/ They got it wrong but they still tried/ And they made it through to the morning.”

2 comments:

Martijn said...

This and "Your Sister's Clothes" are two of my favourite Pulp songs ever... I love the multiple uses of the word "seconds" in the lyrics too

Mike said...

All three of the Sisters EP b-sides are among my favorites. I had read a lot of good things about the EP on Pulp fan sites, but when I finally got a copy through Ebay, I couldn't believe how great these songs are.