Thursday, September 6, 2007

I Spy

The key to understanding this sex- and class-conscious revenge fantasy is that it’s equally a joke, and a canny self-parody at that. Jarvis tips his hand during the mid-song monologue, with one his funniest asides: “It’s just like in the old days. I used to compose my own critical notices. ‘The crowd gasps at Cocker’s masterful control of the bicycle, skillfully avoiding the dog turd outside the corner shop.’ Imagining a blue plaque above the place I first ever touched a girl’s chest...” The song is equally about getting caught up in self-mythologizing, particularly when you’re busy elaborately planning the comeuppance of your foes, real and imagined. This aspect of the song is much more palatable to non-UK listeners, who may not totally comprehend a put-down like “Take your Year in Provence/ and shove it up your ass.” I know I don’t.

At the time of its release, “I Spy” was the apotheosis of the band’s dramatic John Barry side. I believe it also marked the first appearance of a full orchestra on a Pulp album. The song hasn’t entirely held up, partially because Pulp later topped this epic with the string-laden likes of “This Is Hardcore” and “Wickerman.”


Jonathan said...

Re A Year In Provence, this book is perhaps another example of the pretentious middle-class trappings that the (anti)hero of the song despises. Also, I think this one is WAY better than Wickerman.

Bob said...

I don't think Wickerman measures up to I Spy, either. I Spy is considerably...sweatier, I suppose. Somehow that seems right.

Mike said...

Hmm, perhaps "Wickerman" should be the next entry. I think it has bigger aims in its sight, and reaches pretty much all of them. I also think it's more interesting musically. But I've said too much already.