Wednesday, April 30, 2008

They Suffocate at Night

On the final track of Freaks – and the last single by that lineup of the band – the minor-key indie fumblings suddenly gain the low-rent grandeur the band must’ve been striving for that whole time. It’s hard to say what exactly is different, but there’s a melancholy that arises here – different from mere dreariness – that’s quite affecting. The arrangement is quite perfect, mixing organ, plucked violin and a steady, delicate rhythm. Jarvis’ vocals still lack confidence and certitude, but even that’s not really a drawback. The lyrics detail love gone horribly wrong once again, but every line is well-chosen, filling in the right details while still leaving room for ambiguity.
During the filming of a video for this track, apparently the band had some sort of falling out and “broke up,” although soon enough, Jarvis and Russell Senior would put together a new Pulp, eventually bringing Candida Doyle back into the fold as well. Rather miraculously, the video is available on YouTube.

Monday, April 28, 2008


… and we’re back. The opening track on the final Pulp album, “Weeds” attempts to cover a lot of ground, not always successfully. The opening acoustic guitar riff hints at a more pastoral direction from the band, but within a few seconds, we’re back in vaguely Different Class-like anthemic territory. At any rate, both musical decisions seem chosen to move the band as far away from This Is Hardcore as possible.

The song finds Jarvis veering back into “Mis-Shapes” territory, a little strange given his vocal disdain for that song. Here, he wants to write about different kinds of misfits as beleaguered but undaunted. He can’t be faulted for lack of ambition – attempting to tie confused young urbanites and council estate residents into his central botanical metaphor. But something’s missing; the song is rousing and melodic, but it doesn’t quite gel with Jarvis’ concepts. Frankly, “Mis-Shapes” did it better.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Day After the Revolution

At the very end of This Is Hardcore, the band makes an abrupt turn from matters of debauchery and depression to socio-political concerns. It’s so sudden, this change of tact, that a casual listener could easily neglect it. But it’s there, and the soured, world-weary but wiser tone that closes the album only gives it more depth. Like many left-leaning Brit musicians of the time, Jarvis quickly lost hope in Tony Blair’s “New Labour” brand; “The Day After the Revolution” takes solace in the belief that the most significant paradigm shifts will occur in secret, unbeknownst to the masses. Similarly, you can hear the track – despite its hard-charging, echoing guitars and drums – signify the band’s retreat back to the fringes, away from celebrity and all its bummer after-effects. It’s the anti-“Mis-Shapes” in a way.

Now all the breakdowns and nightmares look small
Now we decided not to die after all
Because the meek shall inherit absolutely nothing at all
If you stopped being so feeble, you could have so much more

“Yeah we made it,” Jarvis exclaims at the end, and the relief is palpable, especially given the nightmare scenarios of the previous songs. He then launches into a monologue (“Sheffield is over/ The Fear is over/ Guilt is over…”) that echoes John Lennon’s “I don’t believe in…” litany in “God.” On the UK version of TIH, the song then concludes with nearly ten minutes of a single synth note, punctuated by a single “bye-bye” from Jarvis near the end. It may have been a stunt instituted by La Monte Young fan Mark Webber. If, like me, you’re lucky enough to have the U.S. version, the song fades out before all that. Instead we get a top-notch bonus track, “Like a Friend” – although for the purposes of this blog, we won’t be treating that as a track from this album.

(Note: I’m moving this month, so my time and/or internet will be limited. So Music From a Bachelor’s Den will be on a lighter publishing schedule for April. I fully expect things to go back to normal once May rolls around.)