Monday, November 12, 2007

The Fear

And so we come to the source of this blog’s name. When I wrote a little while back that “Love is Blind” is Pulp’s best album-opener, well, I misspoke slightly. Fact is, all the first tracks from Pulp’s ‘90s albums are near-equals in their amazing ability to set the tenors of their respective albums, setting the listeners on paths that move unexpectedly.

The title “The Fear” indicates that This Is Hardcore will tap the band’s dark side like no album since Freaks. The grinding guitars that open the track assure this much. But the band has changed, and grown immeasurably as writers, players and arrangers since Freaks. “The Fear” is equally a sign that This Is Hardcore will approach the subject of depression and fame hangovers from a multitude of angles.

And so, the song’s first two verses find Jarvis chronicling his breakdown in a dashing yet harrowing manner. It doesn’t sound like “someone losing the plot”; the song simply “is the sound of someone losing the plot” (italics mine). But as the song progresses, Jarvis adjusts the perspective only slightly, making a huge difference. Suddenly, he addresses the listeners, assuring them that, in time, the song will become a soundtrack for their own breakdowns. “The Fear” becomes oddly comforting. Emotional meltdowns come, emotional meltdowns go. The song remains.

“The Fear” also serves as a hallmark of the album’s sound, with its diamond-hard, unrelentingly expert production. And even in the throes of bad times, the band hasn’t lost their witty sense of rock culture. The backing singers on the chorus are all but imported straight from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (which was mixed by Hardcore’s producer, Chris Thomas).

Watch a performance of this song on Later with Jools Holland here.

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