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Pulp – Different Class [Album Review]

May 9, 2012

Mis-Shapes / Pencil Skirt / Common People / I Spy / Disco 2000 / Live Bed Show / Something Changed / Sorted For E’s & Wizz / F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E / Underwear / Monday Morning / Bar Italia

So everyone was talking Blur & Oasis, but suddenly this third ‘force’ emerges in the battle, and for some, eclipsed either of the aforementioned bands. Although they’d broke the charts with ‘His N Hers’ and its attendant singles, nothing troubled the top five. ‘Common People’ reached number two, ‘Mis-Shapes’ and ‘Disco 2000’ both became anthems of a kind. I remember thinking to myself when the first time i heard ‘Common People’, that this was it, it was perfect. As good as Pulp were gonna get, or at least as big as they were gonna get. Record Company guys have a tendency to grow blinkers around their good senses when a group suddenly grasps hold of the zeitgeist and has a big, big seller. Way back in the mists of time, shortly after MC Hammer had finished promotional duties and touring his massive selling ‘U Can’t Touch This’ and it’s parent album, I witnessed a TV program which featured an interview with a spokesmen for MC Hammer’s record label. They projected his sales into the future based on his current sales and ‘growth’. How can you project the next three albums after only one, anyway hmm? They had some ridiculous figure, that in 1995, MC Hammer would be selling 50,000,000 albums, ‘based on our current figures and projections’. Well, it was some figure as ridiculous as that, in any case. And they were serious!  MC Hammer, didn’t they make a statue of him in every capitol city in the world? Man, did he get nonsensically big!! Stupidity aside, what has any of this got to do with Pulp? Well, they peaked. You can draw a line through their career, and it peaks with ‘Common People’ and peaks with ‘Different Class’. And it was always going to be that way, at least from a commercial stand-point. It was foreseen, although unfortunately not by anybody at Island Records, suffice to say. ‘Different Class’ includes the three songs I mentioned of course, each one of which will stand the test of time if only as classic examples of britpop in years and years to come. These songs define that era. ‘Mis-Shapes’ is well produced, striking and clever and playful lyrically, and musically lots of fun. It builds and builds, and reaches a ‘Pulp’ disco/retro/groovy chorus, and everything is well with the world. ‘Common People’ arrives third, ‘Pencil Skirt’ has the unhappy task of breaking up two such defining Pulp songs, and does so by representing itself as a very minor, understated little lullaby of sorts. The near six minute long classic of a kind ‘Common People’ is followed by the far more interesting, although far less commercial ( no single release here ), ‘I Spy’. Scott Walker influence to the fore, Pulp’s usual charging keyboards and rhythms abound, a wonderful lyric and vocal holds everything together. The songs stops, starts, sweeps through its different sections with an ease that Pulp made seem, well, easy. Commercial success AND artistic ambition? Both merge together for ‘Different Class’. It worked. Perfectly.

‘Disco 2000’ was all about ‘NOW!’, thus even later in time, it already doesn’t quite seem right. Well, it’s dated! It’s tweleve years AFTER the year 2000. What are we all gonna do? Go back in time? Pulp held the zeitgeist, at least in the UK and parts of Europe, they did. Who knows what the US were listening to in 1995, the year of Britpop? Does anybody remember? ‘Live Bed Show’ is seedy yet slinky and smooth, ‘Somethings Changed’ swings around it’s little guitar figure most attractively. The controversial ‘Sorted For E’s And Wizz’ still makes a spine chill somewhere, every time it’s heard, i’m sure of that. A selection of lovely keyboard sounds, very clever and funny lyrics  by the J-dog that met the populace head on. Still works to this day, actually. Something intelligent is going on. ‘Feeling Called Love’ is a weak link in the ‘Different Class’ chain, the only song that doesn’t really work or hold itself together seemingly effortlessly. ‘Underwear’ is a sheer glory, the kind of soaring, romantic ( of a decidedly lo-rent, Northern England kind ) song that Pulp had given us from time to time all through their career(trademark pulp) Here, such a song was married to confidence, swagger, no little achievement. ‘Monday Morning’ is bouncy and jerky and fun. The closing ‘Bar Italia’ another piece of Jarvis Cocker theatre, glorious lyrically. An album full of glorious lyrics, an album that so perfectly evokes the time that was 1995/1996, it sends you right back if you happened to be around England at the time. Thing is, I have reservations about ‘Different Class’, just small ones. Although it’s a very solid album, removed from it’s place in history and time, how does it stand up? It still remains a fine album, but the sense of magic that surrounded it in 1995 has gone. A test of time theory. ‘Different Class’ HAS stood the test of time, just about. It’s lost a little, but it’s still standing pretty proud, and glad to be around.

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