Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy Endings

Maybe it’s all that reverb on His ‘n’ Hers, but the album is an especially cinematic one for Pulp. More to the point, I think this is the album where the band hit upon the mix of big sounds and intimate stories that makes their songs sound like little Mike Leigh films.

Movies are especially central to “Happy Endings,” as Jarvis opens the song inviting a woman to imagine her life as a film. As keyboards swirl like mirror balls, he sets a scene of romantic surrender, as “the orchestra makes a sound/that goes round and round and round and round…” But by the next verse, he’s revealed that this scenario is indeed fiction; the woman is an ex-lover and he tenderly explains that he’s too cynical and defeated to believe in happy endings. But, knowing that she is also feeling deeply wounded at this point, he hopes that she remembers that she once believed in them, and indeed finds one someday.

Pulp had plenty of big, swooning ballads like this – “She’s Dead,” “Something Changed, “Sylvia,” “Bad Cover Version.” For a possible prototype of these songs, check out Jarvis and Steve’s excellent mix CD from 2006, The Trip. Included therein is a Gene Pitney song called “24, Sycamore,” a gorgeous work of swelling emotion and pinpointed lyrical detail.

At their last concert in 2002, Pulp revived “Happy Endings” with a delicate reading, dominated by slide and acoustic guitars. Since the concert was broadcast on the BBC, it’s fairly findable around the internet, and this performance is among the band’s most poignant.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Good call on 24, Sycamore, a fine slice of 60s pop melodrama.