on 6 March 2006
In most musical scenes, there’s an act who have been around for a while but still manage to become a major part of the movement. For the Baggy scene at the turn of the 90s it was James and for Britpop it was Pulp. After 10 years of Peel sessions and independently released records, the band signed to Island with a new sense of purposes. Within a couple of years they were one of the biggest and best bands in country. Frontman Jarvis Cocker finally achieved the fame he had sought for all those year though it ultimately proved to be a big disappointment…
This compilation chronologically collects together all the singles the band released for Island with the exception of Mis-shapes which some band members now detest for reasons best known to themselves. It starts with the catchy, sexually seedy singles from the His’n’Hers LP before continuing with the epic Common People. One of the defining songs of the 90s, Common People’s true story of a rich girl trendily pretending to be poor is not dissimilar to Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone with both songs having a similar historical resonance within the context of their decades.
Following on from Common People are the other singles from Pulp’s biggest album Different Class including the beautiful Something Changed, a rare purely romantic moment amidst the sex, spite and politics elsewhere. All seemed to be going swimmingly well for the band on the surface though Jarvis found the fame he had sought for so long to be a major disappointment.
Pulp finally re-emerged a couple of years later with This Is Hardcore, the ultimate anti-Britpop LP. Resolutely uncommercial for such a major act, it now stands as a leading artistic statement. It took the fourth release from the album, the glam-tastic Bowie-esuqe Party Hard for the band to release an obvious single. Prior to that we had a poignant song written from the viewpoint of Jarvis’ estranged father with whom he’d recently been reunited, an excellent song about helping the aged and the slightly tedious title track about watching porn. Mostly good worthy stuff though not the hook-laden chart-friendly songs the band’s more mainstream fans and Island were looking for…
After a long break, Pulp returned in late 2001 with their final album We Love Life. A more optimistic LP with several song using metaphors from the joys of nature, it includes the brilliant Sunrise. Released as a double A-side single with Trees, Sunrise has an extended, uplifting coda – thrilling semi-psychedelia and possibly the best section of music the band have ever produced. It’s also free of the kitsch, bleeping synths so beloved of the band as is the final, previously unreleased track on Hits, Last Day Of The Miners' Strike.
With a harder rockier sound, Miners’ Strike shows that Pulp had plenty more mileage left in them. Taking an extended break after refusing a much-reduced new contract from Island, it now looks unlikely that they will take the stage as a unit again though individual collaborations will continue. A great shame though Hits is an excellent worthy epitaph to their legacy.
on 11 April 2006
In many ways the fate of PULP is rather tragic. They struggled for far more than a decade before they finally had their well-deserved breakthrough with 1995's 'Different Class'. After which they made the descision to turn artistic rather than mainstream - bad for record sales, good for the fans. As expected, as the music grew progressively better and more deep, the sales-number's dropped critically. This collection could be the opportunity for the band to show that they never lost the nerve, even if their later releases didn't spawn any great smash-hits like 'Common People' and 'Disco 2000' from before-mentioned breakthrough album.
The reason for this is that the album includes strictly only the songs picked for A-side releases - and while none of these songs are bad, I still think the person who was responsible for picking the songs for single-release from their latest album 'We Love Life' must have been hit - hard - in the head, with the result of critical loss of good sense, before making that selection. A pitty, because I still believe that album could have done so much better than it did.
The songs on this compilation are arranged in chronoligical order, and covers the albums 'His'n'Hers', 'Different Class', 'This Is Hardcore' and 'We Love Life' - all released on the Island label. The bands earlier career is well documentet in several other compilation, most common is the somewhat uneven "Countdown" double-CD. In my oppinion, any affectionate of the bands later music should try to get a hand on their last pre-Island album 'Seperations', that is imo. fully as good as any as their Island records, in its own peculiar way - and considerably better than 'His'n'Hers'. However, let me give a brief run-through of the songs on this CD.
- His'n'Hers Era -
Four tracks are included from this album, and while none of them are bad, only one - 'Do You Remember The First Time?' - is on level with their later work. All songs share a thematic focus on relationships - or perhaps one should say, failed relationships - and they fully display Jarvis Cockers amazing ability to write clever lyrics. However, I think these songs are all very pesimistic - sarcasm is more dominating than irony here, spite more pronounced than humor - which is a shame, because much of the charm of the bands later work is missing on that account. Also, the melodies are not - with the exception of Do You Remember ... - completely succesfull imo; there is a rather forced, constructed sound to these songs, they are neither as catchy nor elegant as later compositions.
The problem is that when the songs are arrange chronologically, the album opens on a low, which is never a good thing. I'd be very tempted to simply skip the first 3 songs when putting this on, and get right to the REAL stuf.
- Different Class era -
While Do You Remember The First Time? gave the band some airplay and spawned interest, 'Common People' brought PULP to everybody's attention. The song became a well-deserved smash-hit all around the world, and for the good reasons. The lyrics are brilliant - clever and funny at the same time - and the melody is extremely catchy. The tempo-change of the song, that starts out slow and the incrases pace throughout it's more than 5 minutes, is a brilliant detail.
The record spawned a long series of hits - 'Sorted For E's And Wizz' (released as a double-A-side with Mis-Shapes, which is for some reson excluded here?), 'Disco 2000' and 'Something Changed'. Also intended for release on single was 'Underwear' (originally planned as a double A-side with Common People, but then later reduced to B-side for Common People because of the succes of the latter), only included on the UK version of this compilation. If the greatest weaknes of the Different Class album was that nearly all the songs were quite close in sound, that was easily forgiven considering the consistent high quality of the songs.
- This Is Hardcore era -
Following the sudden mega succes of Different Class, PULP took some time off trying to get to terms with their newfound fame, with all it's good and, especially, bad sides. They came back with the dark and moody - and, I should add, utterly brilliant - 'This Is Hardcore'. That the band had taken a more serious turn was obvious from first single 'Help The Aged', focusing on the lonelines of old people in modern society. The track also has a much heavier rock-sound than their previous releases, which might have scared away some of the bands former fans, that liked the easy-going sound of their former hits.
That sound was characteristic for the whole album, which was much darker than earlier work. Fans were divided - some prefered the old style, while other found that the "new" PULP was much more serious and interesting than the "old", and also the music grew increasingly more refined. The title track, second single of the album, has an eery atmosphere of gloom, and with lyrics about sexual fantasies about starring in porn movies - never explicit, but quite obvious - it is very far from main-stream. 'A Little Soul' sounds like a quite normal, sweet pop-tune - that is, until you listen to the lyrics, about a man telling his song about how he left the family and the boys mother and spent the nights with other women. Quite a task to pull such a song off to a merry pop-tune, but PULP manage this with splendor. Not many other bands, if any, could have done it. Last single from the album was 'Party Hard' - one of the most rocking uptempo songs the band have done.
- We Love Life era -
The band's latest album was promoted with the double A-side single 'The Trees'/'Sunrise'. Sunrise is a glorious pop-song about coming out of a personal crisis and facing up to life again. The song has an absolutely wonderful instrumental/choral second part that takes your breath away. Easily one of the most beautiful songs writting within the last 10 years. On the other side, The Trees was an eery song with an odd violin song and a theme about lost love. This track is not bad, but deffinitely not very radio-friendly, and the single failed to create a lot of airplay. Thus, the new album went virtually un-noticed on release.
As second single was picked the song 'Bad Cover Version' - again, not a bad song, but still one of the weakest from the album in my oppinion. The song is quite slow and not as elegant or catchy as much more obvious picks from the album like 'The Night That Minney Timperley Died', 'The Birds In You Garden' og 'Bob Lind (The Only Way Is Down)'. As such, this single also failed to increase record sales, and after this no further singles were released from the album - a great pity.
- New track -
The compilation includes one new song, 'The Last Day Of The Mines' Strike'. Again, this is not a bad song, but it doesn't really offer me a lot. It's very slow, it's not a radio friendly song, and though I suppose the lyrics aren't bad, the song never really caught onto me. A bit ironic actually, this album starts on a low, and ends on a low, which is never a good thing.
- Songs Not Included -
There are many songs from their albums that are not on this compilation, but that I think are much better than those included here. 'Mis-Shapes' was released as a single, but didn't make it onto here for some mysterious reason? 'I Spy' wasn't very radio-friendly, but was by far the most clever song off Different Class. 'Live Bed Show' could easily have made the cut as a single release. 'F.E.A.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E' was also a very interesting track, hinting at the more dark sound of the next record.
'The Fear', opener from This Is Hardcore, was always a favorite of mine. Likewise, 'TV Movie' is a delightful track, and 'Sylvia' and 'Glory Days' both displayed ample of hit material. 'Wickerman' from We Love Life is beyond doubt the bands most complicated song to date - and also probably their best. Other highlights off that record were 'The Weets', 'The Night That Minnie Timperley Died', 'Birds In Your Garden' and 'Bob Lind'. Furthermore, some songs not on the proper albums should have been included - His'n'Hers (the track) was always a fan favorite, Mile End is up there with anything from We Love Life and Life A Friend from the Great Expectations soundtrack was out for radio airplay in the states - and is a brilliant song.
Thus, I think they should have followed the example of the first compilation release 'Countdown', and made this a double CD. The second CD could have run something like:
His'n'Hers - Pink Glove - Mis-Shapes - I Spy - Mile End - Live Bed Show - F.E.A.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E - The Fear - TV Movie - Like A Friend - The Weets - The Night That Minnie Timperley Died - Wickerman - The Birds In Your Garden - Bob Lind (The Only Way Is Down) - Grandfather's Nursery (new track, newer released except as mp3-download).
That would have made a much more complete and satisfactory collection. As the CD is now, it's a great CD with 10 masterful songs and a handful of good ones to follow, but it could have been even better.
Overall rating: 9 / 10
Despite the fact that Pulp, fronted by the talented vocalist and Britpop figure head Jarvis Cocker (who also happens to have a very strong Sheffield accent that I find very appealing) had been around from 1979, this skillfully selected 2002 compilation, released after ten years on the Island record label, focuses on their signature hits from the early-90s and onward, when the band started to become really popular.
The songs are usefully compiled chronologically, beginning with the 1992 single 'Babies', and ending with a brand new song 'Last Day of the Miners' Strike', completing ten great years as chart artists.
Their signature album, and all around musical masterpiece 'Different Class' is represented the most with five tracks, including their most popular song 'Common People', one of the most defining tunes of the '90s. After this, I would strongly advise you to buy that album.
'Hits' has all the commercially successful essentials that you need in a Pulp collection, gathered together in neat little package. The band were one of the pioneers of the Britpop genre, and their music remains as creative, exciting and as lyrically seedy and fascinating as it ever was. If you love bands like Oasis, Cast and Blur, make sure you slip this CD next to them. The booklet for this official package contains lyrics to every song, full page colour photographs of the faces of each band member, and a detailed history, written by Harland Miller.