A new start, and a proper start this time, with the urgent stomp of 'Love Is Blind', an instant classic. "The future is shining, like a giant metal beast. It shines so bright tonight, with its legs open wide..." The first song, and it's exhaustingly good. But with an "mmh...aah!" we're off into the next one, and it's precision and quality all the way. 'Don't You Want Me Anymore' nods back to their fellow Sheffielders once again, but what's less obvious is that this is an inversion of 'The Train from Kansas City' by the Shangri-las, told from the train passenger's viewpoint.
The album is packed with pop references: 'She's Dead' reminds us of 'Honey' by Bobby Goldsboro, and 'Death II' channels Gene Pitney. On 'Separations', Pulp are fully-formed, and 'Death II' is a case in point. It's one of the best Pulp songs that many fame-era fans have never heard. Not because of the song itself, but because – never mind 'My Legendary Girlfriend' – it's the clarion call of what Pulp were going to become: this one could have gone on 'His 'n' Hers', but instead that album's backward glance would come with its earliest composition 'She's a Lady'. Which is Death in drag, if you get me.
In his sleeve notes, Everett True quotes Jarvis Cocker on 'Countdown': "You leave school and you treat the rest of your life like a big countdown for something big that's going to happen." Yes. I remember that feeling. I'm sure we all do. The lyrics have stopped looking inwards entirely, and now look out into the shared, and – note the word – common, experience.
This new edition is the version of the album to get, not least because it includes 'Death Comes to Town', the only non-album track recorded at the sessions, in its original, non-extended form (at the time, Fire cancelled the planned 7 inch) outside of the free CD with the 'Beats Working for a Living' book, on which it is horribly compressed. All of these remasters are sensitive and dynamic, with no brickwalling or overheating.
All of this is a good thing, and I know that during my earlier review of 'Freaks' I said that Russell Senior's vocal turn 'Fairground' should have been at the end. Well, 'This House Is Condemned' might have served better as a b-side, which would have left room on the album for 'Death Comes to Town'. Well, you can now programme your CD player and pretend that's what happened. Not that 'This House...' is unworthy. It's a surprisingly successful stab at making a different kind of music without losing identity, and makes an interesting counterpoint to 'My Legendary Girlfriend'.
So what about 'My Legendary Girlfriend'? This album's contribution to pop culture has seen the title co-opted for a dick-lit book and it's routinely cited as the moment where Pulp became, you know, Pulp. It's a brilliant record, and untarnished by the years, still lifting the nape hairs from the opening seconds, and demanding the mixture of concentration and abandonment so familiar to fans of the band. It's a direct descendant of Closer to You from Momus's 'The Poision Boyfriend', and both songs take their cue from Barry White. The story, as we found out the following year in the sleeve notes to the 'Babies' single, takes place the night before that of 'Sheffield: Sex City'.
Now don't be mislead by the title of this review, I like the old Pulp, a lot, a hell of a lot. And I also like the new Pulp too - it's nice to see a band develop over such a long time. But this album is staggering, there are tracks on it that are simply stunning - Death II and the album version of Countdown (don't be put of by the bouncy Countdown compilation version). This album is great, and it's nearly at His and Hers.
If you want to understand where Pulp originally came from and how they sounded when Jarvis Cocker was a pretentious 23 year old nob strutting around Sheffield circa 1987/88 then buy this album. To put it into three words, it is brilliant. Pulp had been around a long time before finding popular success and for me, this album captures them at their very best, how they sounded when I was a 21 yr old nob strutting around Sheffield. Live Pulp were amazing and listening to this record shows you just how good they were. Personally I don't think Pulp have made a bad album but for me this is their best by a long long chalk.
Filled with dark tales of death, abandonment, regret and distained worth this is by far the best and darkest Pulp album available, and is essential for any fan of the group's darker sides. The distant wailing of the opening track 'Love Is Blind' leads into one of Jarvis' most expressive vocals; soaring through a huge range of needful sounds describing the mundane spirit of love. The unmistakable keyboard stamp intro, combined with a fantastic lyric opens the wire doors to 'Don't You Want Me Anymore' the first of a two-part story about the risks of leaving love and home; a simply beautiful track. The haunting violin intro of 'Separations' with the desperate, godly vocal are utterly capturing. The sound then dramatically changes; bouncing musically into a jiggy, swirling, bumble-bee melody, with a bird's-eye-view narrative; thus creating a fantastic 2nd part to 'Don't You Want Me Anymore.' There are NO poor tracks on this album! My only regret is that the inlay sheet contains no lyrics; this is a real sore point for me personally.
To really see where Pulp's defining 'Different Class' era sound began, Separations is where to go. Death II shines beautifully while My Legendary Girlfriend, Don't You Want Me Anymore, and Countdown showcase themselves wonderfully. Any Pulp fan would be mad to not have this album - as you can fully appreciate Pulp's transition from obscure to popular in listening to them grow on this CD.
Among all the other albums including solo albums of Jarvis, this is by far the best album for me. After these years, the sound is still fresh and I may say it is a modern classic. I don't how to describe the difference from the other albums but it always comes to me a very personal and a very deep album. It has a very unique and strong sound and every song is a little treasury. And for Jarvis, besides being a genius and a very cool guy, his voice and speak/sing method strike like a thunder; in a very good way. Listen and enjoy.