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 café 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.)

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