Thursday, July 31, 2008

59 Lyndhurst Grove

We’ve reached the final part of the Inside Susan trilogy. (Read about the first two parts here and here.) Anyone relatively familiar with Jarvis’ lyrical perspective won’t be surprised to learn that, in adulthood, Susan has reached a life of stifling domestic inertia. Stuck in a passionless marriage, she’s taken a lover. Despite this seemingly basic scenario, Jarvis adds some unique, finely observed details. Take note of his first-verse description of a party where “they were dancing with children round their necks/ Talking business, books and records, art and sex.” Jarvis’ remarks on the inspiration for this song are worth reading. Check out a live performance of the song here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Deep Fried in Kelvin

At nine minutes and 48 seconds, this b-side handily earns the distinction of being Pulp’s longest song. Like most long Pulp songs, it also serves as an opportunity for an extended Jarvis monologue, this one about the squalor and hopelessness of Sheffield council estates. Here, Jarvis focuses his ire on Kelvin Flats, which were apparently especially dismal. While his diatribe is at times impenetrable sans lyric sheet, it melds perfectly with the band’s performance, a superior ebb and flow driven by a guitar line that’s both cheesy and ominous. At times, “Deep Fried in Kelvin” seems almost trance-inducing; you can even forget that it’s nearly ten minutes long. As it approaches provincial concerns with a cinematic sense of scope, the song found its way into theaters, via a scene in The Full Monty. And you gotta love the fake-out ending.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Forever in My Dreams

Another We Love Life also-ran hinting at a compelling direction the band could have headed towards. This b-side dates to the early sessions for the album, before producer Chris Thomas was sent packing. Opening with a sampled loop of distant music, the music swells as each detail is added – spaghetti-western guitars, celestial keyboards, and a stirring rhythm. Jarvis sings about a love that isn’t fleeting, even if he still hedges at “forever”; in fact he spends much of the song casting aspersions on the idea of it. The title indicates that he regards the concept as a mere fantasy. But despite his cynicism, in this song he looks to a woman to make “forever” seem tangible, something worth reaching for. He can’t help but temper some of his most unabashedly romantic lines with an edgy turn-of-phrase: “And I love and respect you/I will honor and obey/ But baby will I marry you?/ Well, that will be the day.” But despite that, the overall tone of “Forever in My Dreams” speaks to hope and promise. It just acknowledges fickle human behavior as well. But it’s one of the most stirring songs they made and, as often is this case, it didn’t necessarily need to languish as a b-side.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What Do You Say?

The first Pulp song ever released, appearing on a compilation entitled Your Secret’s Safe with Us. The sound of the song is twitchy and doomy – very Factory Records. As a lyricist, Jarvis has already acquired a sense of ambition, sketching a macabre scenario in which he wakes to realize he’s literally changed into another person. Is he thinking along the lines of a less gruesome version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis? Or maybe it’s an inadvertent precursor to the movie Big. Jarvis would have been around 18 when this song came out. Maybe he’s reflecting on adolescence, and the emotional and physical upheavals that come with it. Here he takes that feeling, and transports it into the realm of horror, making the metaphor into something concrete. He truly wants to contemplate -- not only for himself but for those around him -- what it would mean to become another person.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


“The muse was with us then.” So says Russell Senior regarding the creation of this track in Mark Sturdy’s Truth and Beauty: The Story of Pulp. “Tunnel” is definitely a unique entry in Pulp’s discography – an eight-minute, pummeling, discordant epic. Driven by Peter Mansell’s driving bass – an instrument rarely given center-stage during this era of the band – “Tunnell” is a harsh rumination of the band’s feelings of dislocation and confusion. Jarvis’ panicked monologue seems to be delivered through a faulty megaphone, distorting and cutting out throughout the song. It sounds like an accurate depiction of some pretty dark minds. And yet, there’s something missing about the song. For all its lack of compromise, it still comes off as an amalgam of other post-punk British bands, mainly Joy Division and The Fall. Plus, the song’s payoff line – “I’ll never ever be clean again” – seems borrowed from The Cure’s “”The Figurehead.” It may be a brutal track, but it still sounds like Jarvis hasn’t found his voice yet, and so it’s not quite essential Pulp.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I very deliberately chose to place entries on this song and “Bar Italia” next to each other. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this mentioned elsewhere – and it didn’t occur to me till about a year ago – but both songs essentially describe the same situation. They both occur at dawn, after a long, long night of carousing. “Bar Italia” takes a dark, sardonic approach. But on “Sunrise,” Jarvis decides to be both caustic and optimistic. Over gently unfolding guitars, he laments his wasted, boozy adulthood with some of his most trenchant, self-needling lines, culminating with a gem of a couplet: “All my achievements in days of yore/ Range from pathetic to piss-poor.” But now’s he vowing to change, not so much his night-life habits, but his feelings of remorse and guilt over staying up all night. He’s trying to embrace that sunrise, not rue it.

The band began playing “Sunrise” in concert a good year-and-a-half before We Love Life was finally released. Its extended instrumental coda – contrasting Mark Webber’s minimalist but anthemic guitar lines with Nick Banks’ boisterous drumming – made the song a fan favorite from early on, and Jarvis tried to rush out a single version, just as they did with “Common People,” which live audiences also embraced early on. However, due to a changing record industry, it didn’t happen as planned. The song eventually came out as a double a-side with “The Trees,” both of which were coolly received by consumers. Still, “Sunrise” remains a fan favorite, and one of the finest songs by the “mature” Pulp. Here’s a live version with some especially impressive dancing from Jarvis at the end.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bar Italia

Pulp’s most famous album closes with this gentle, almost country-tinged track that’s arguably as desolate as anything on Freaks or This Is Hardcore. Describing the aftermath of an endless night of drinking, dancing, partying, etc., “Bar Italia” features a narrator and his companion, the living dead groggily heading to the titular cafĂ© for some much-needed coffee. In one light, the song is pretty matter-of-fact, as the duo deal with their impending hangovers with ironic melodrama and put-downs. But, especially coming after the whirlwind of experience and increasing cynicism on the previous 12 tracks, the exhaustion in Jarvis’ voice cuts deep. And the lyric that closes each chorus offhandedly captures the sadness and horror of the song: “You’re looking so confused/ Oh, what did you lose?” And Jarvis admits that they are fated to continuing having these to these kinds of nights; the implied reason being, what else is there to do? It’s at the song’s end, when (I think) he wearily reasons they may as well go to another bar, that get a sense of how he really feels, like one of the “broken people.” It’s a long, long way from brash confidence that opened the album.

Musically, it’s worth noting the instrumental interlude, where the band lurches into a drunken waltz. Here’s a memorable, slightly stripped down performance of the song from The Mercury Prize broadcast. (They won that year.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

You Are the One

Jarvis has described this discarded demo as a song that might’ve made This Is Hardcore more Different Class-like. “You Are the One” bears a thematic relation to “Something Changed,” but it’s a second-hand, less inspired version. It’s only a demo, so you can’t really blame the band for coming up with an unfinished arrangement. But it’s clear their hearts are not in this song, and everyone involved would rather be working on the darker, more challenging Hardcore material. Also, this song has no business being four-and-a-half minutes long.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Looking For Life

The b-side of “My Lighthouse” got tacked onto the ’94 CD reissue of It. So, for all intents and purposes, this is the final song on It, as the majority of Pulp fans didn’t hear the album (and other early releases) until its mid-‘90s re-emergence. And it’s for the better; the slow-building drama of “Looking For Life” makes for a better album-closer than the wispy “In Many Ways.” Jarvis’ lyric vows to move on the wreckage of another love affair, but it’s celestial organ and relatively driving outro that makes the song memorable. And just to remind you that this is early Pulp, Jarvis also lets loose some painfully tuneless vocal ad libs during the song’s finale.