Sunday, August 24, 2008

Seductive Barry

Like “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” this is obviously a seduction song that, on the face of it, doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the overriding concept of the surrounding album. This Is Hardcore examines at once the allure of desire, and the toll it takes. “Seductive Barry” spends almost all of its 8-plus minutes reveling purely in the allure, so much so that it doesn’t quite fit. Additionally, the song is uniquely what you might call a single-entendre Pulp song. On “My Legendary Girlfriend” and “I Spy,” Jarvis uses sex to talk about Sheffield and class. On “Seductive Barry,” he uses sex to talk about sex. It’s only at the very end that we get an indication that things are maybe not what they seem here: “And if this is a dream, then I’m going to sleep for the rest of my life.”

The triumph of this track is musical, as the band creates an enveloping sound where programmed and more traditional parts merge together harmoniously. The song builds slowly, but reaches a delicious payoff at the, er, climax.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Will to Power

The first Pulp song released with a Russell Senior lead vocal. Senior attempted here to get inside the mindset of a humiliated failure of a man who has decisively turned to fascism. It should be noted that Senior was a pretty committed socialist at this point, and decidedly not a Nazi. He describes his motives for writing this song in more detail in Mark Sturdy’s Pulp bio, Truth and Beauty, which in fact gets its title from this song. Fascism is a subject matter that Jarvis might’ve found difficult, so a far less accomplished writer like Senior ultimately brings very little insight. Instead, there are laughable lines like “Weak flesh projected through Europe on speed of all needs.” Although the song itself is no great shakes, the band manages to turn in an appealingly intense performance that does a much better job of conveying a sudden rise of violence.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Death Comes to Town

I’m not exactly sure what drew Jarvis to the persona of the Grim Reaper for a series of songs but, as he himself would probably tell you, he was in a pretty weird state in the ‘80s. “Death Comes to Town” features the morbid storytelling of Freaks, but in a disco setting that points directly to the Separations era. I’m pretty sure this is the first Pulp studio recording to feature Nick Banks on drums.

It’s actually only a demo, and it didn’t see the light of day till 2005, when it appeared on a CD that came with the book Beats Working For a Living: Sheffield Popular Music 1973-1984 by Martin Lilleker. (Oddly, this demo was recorded sometime around 1986-87.) What’s most strange is that the remix of “Death Comes to Town,” entitled “Death Goes to the Disco” is way easier to find. So much so, it gets a separate entry on PulpWiki. I’m going to follow their cue, and write about the remix on another post.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wishful Thinking

On Pulp’s first album, this song opens with a simple but brilliantly effective arrangement, as guitar and piano intertwine. “Wishful Thinking” finds Jarvis admitting feelings of loneliness and desire with admirable honesty, if only he had found a more elegant way of expressing them. Here, Jarvis manages to exclaim “It turned me on,” not once but twice, without a trace of the winking lasciviousness he would later master. His constant chorus of “I’ve got this love inside of me,” delivered at a painful pitch alongside one of his most twee melodies, doesn’t help matters. Then there’s the flute solos. And yet, I find this song’s gawky charm endearing. But then, I’m a diehard fan.

Prior to It, an earlier incarnation of Pulp recorded this song for their first Peel Session. In some ways, this is the superior version, with a rickety drum beat and atmospheric synths to give to song some urgency, maybe even something approximating an edge.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


This is my favorite Pulp song, a perfect piece of pop that manages to be both dour and uplifting. Musically, it’s another great example of the band’s mid-‘90s aesthetic: an uncomplicated, simply played song, but with the execution and right production touches, it becomes the stuff of great drama. “Lipgloss” has all the bleak but sympathetic imagery of a Mike Leigh film, but one with a soundtrack by Roxy Music. Jarvis looks at a woman undone by a dissolved romance. His lyrics perfect capture the feelings of shame and self-loathing that gnaw at the woman. And he delivers this with a knowledge that indicates that he knows exactly how this feels all too well.

I’ve been thinking lately just how powerful the payoff line of the chorus is. “There’s something wrong/ You had it once, but now it’s gone.” On paper, it sounds matter-of-fact, brusque even. But it’s also the most universal line in the song; even if you’ve never suffered a broken heart in this precise way, something in your life has probably gone so wrong so fast you never had a chance to figure out what exactly happened. And that line, combined with the whirlwind thrill of the music, captures that exact feeling.

Lots of good YouTubes of the song: the video; an amazing TV performance; a great rendition with the band flanked by dancing audience members; and footage of Jarvis recording a synth overdub.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Erection

A bouncy would-be pop song gets thoroughly perverted on this Hardcore-era demo. “My Erection” has an almost identical instrumental lineup as “Ladies’ Man” – right down to Jarvis’ thoroughly vocoder-ized vocals, an apparent effort to “completely erase my personality.” As a result his vocals are even more impenetrable than on "Ladies' Man. Suffice to say there’s more than a little grunting and moaning, all rendered positively slithery by the effects. The This Is Hardcore reissue booklet does include lyrics for the song, in which the titular, um, item provides the narrator with a sense of, er, direction. But good luck figuring out how to sing along. Although the song seems a bit tossed off, its demented sense of sleaze feels genuine and well-earned.