Pulp’s first new single after Different Class revealed a more world-weary band (and also a smaller one, what with longtime guitarist-violinist Russell Senior’s 1996 exit). Although, as this blog has tirelessly posited, Pulp’s music has always displayed an almost exhaustively neurotic perspective, “Help the Aged” was most certainly a calculated effort to bring it back to the forefront. No longer would the band embrace the hustling night life with something approaching pure satisfaction; but of course, nor would they suck all the joy out of their music.
“Help The Aged” still brims with glammy thrills and pop style. With its glossy keyboards and turbo-charged guitar riffs, they renewed their Bowie/Roxy Music allegiance. Jarvis proves him an especially worthy inheritor (and updater) of Bryan Ferry’s campy sense of style. He gives a vocal performance that seems ready-made for velvet jackets and tinted glasses. But at the same time, he completely rejects ironic distance and poseur effects. There are plenty of deadpan one-liners in the song, but this panic yelp in the chorus shows just how much he really means it, as he’s always meant it.
The video amusingly imagines a world in which hipsters ensnare ladies by dressing up at senior citizens. Also, the version of the song on The Peel Sessions is one for the ages. With the guitars set on “pulverize,” the band delivers one of their most thrillingly intense performances.
UPDATE: And how could I forget this rendition?