Tuesday, September 11, 2007


And in this corner…

“Wickerman” is arguably the culmination of the lyrical and musical themes that had occupied Jarvis and Pulp during the better part of their career. It’s nearly all here: Sheffield and the waters that surround it (in this case, the River Don); the do-or-die moments that come in every romantic situation; a sense of discovery and escape; morbid fascination; working-class desperation; missed opportunities; and the unknowable future. The appeal of a river as a motif in this song is clear: It provides both a sense of stability and mystery.

In weaving their favorite themes in a little over eight minutes, the band winds up with one of their most unique songs, one that seems to unfold unexpectedly every time you hear it, with new lyrical touches rising to the forefront. The music moves sublimely, rising and falling, eventually reaching a crescendo that might be their most dramatic (and from this band, that’s saying something). Additionally, there’s a bittersweet sense of farewell, of a curtain drawing down, as the song closes, fittingly for what’s probably Pulp’s final hurrah.

The connection between this song and Robin Hardy’s classic British horror film The Wicker Man is pretty tenuous at best. Apparently there’s a sample of the film’s soundtrack somewhere in this song, but I’ve yet to precisely detect where it is, in both the song and the film. As noted earlier, Wicker has a different connotation in Pulp’s songs.


Graham said...

It’s very refreshing to hear someone (especially someone so intimately acquainted with Pulp’s full catalog) hail Wickerman as one of their great masterpieces.
I do have a couple of things to add on the subject of the title. First, the song sampled from the Wicker Man soundtrack is called Willow’s Song.
The first few seconds of Willow’s Song appear as "the sound of that ridiculously heartbreaking child's ride". Listen again; it’s pretty conspicuous.
Second, the Wicker references refer to one of the main thoroughfares in Sheffield which is commonly referred to as the Wicker. You can read more about the railway viaduct here.
With that in mind, it's reasonable to assume that the Wickerman is how the narrator thinks of himself, his life being so closely connected with the river and the town. Personally, I think that the similarity to the film title was just a coincidence that the band decided to acknowledge with the sampling, and that the film has no further relevance in the context of the song.
Hope this will help to provide food for thought during future listens. As you pointed out, each time is like a new experience. The sheer power of Wickerman has an ability to affect me on a level that is reserved for very few songs.

Mike said...

Hey Graham. Thanks so much for the kind words and the insight into this great song.