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on 12 October 2016
1998's 'This Is Hardcore' finds Jarvis Cocker moving Pulp ever further into dark, and somewhat depressing, territory; for me, this is both a strength and a weakness because there are some great ideas which are overcooked simply by their sheer length ('Seductive Barry' is well over 8 minutes long and the final track, 'The Days After The Revolution', should have been wrapped up after 5 minutes but on the original release droned on inexplicably for a further 10 minutes.) On the bright side, there are some really decent tracks here :- 'The Fear' is a powerful opener, 'Dishes' is a good shorter track and the likes of 'Party Hard', 'Help The Aged' and the lovely 'A Little Soul' are joined by the classy 'Sylvia'. For me, this is a flawed classic but it's still engaging enough to be classed as one of the best releases of the 1990s.
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Like fellow Britpop greats Blur, past the mid '90s, Pulp's music took a different direction. 'This Is Hardcore', released three years after 1995's critically-acclaimed masterpiece 'Different Class', Jarvis Cocker and his boys gave us this wonderfully dark album, which is a solid collection of thought-provoking tunes to listen to alone quietly. The songs are much slower, and instead of a Britpop record, 'This Is Hardcore' should be filed under alternative/art rock. If you were to consider this to be these Sheffield men's equivalent to Blur's 1999 '13 'record, you wouldn't be far wrong. This is essentially the soundtrack to when the partying over 'Different Class' stops, and you wake up the morning after, or realise that it's time to grow up and face the realities of the world.

Four singles were released, and two of them, the title track and 'Help the Aged' were major UK hits. The latter, essentially a salute to the older generation, with lyrics that are true but so often forgotten, has a chorus is pretty much the song 'Creep' by Radiohead, and as the song progresses, it becomes virtually a personal plea from Jarvis, almost begging others to understand and be caring towards him when he is no longer enable to do what he likes to do. 'Dishes' is a standout track, with one of the best opening lyrics of any song, and easily one of the most beautiful things that Mr. Cocker has ever written. The dark opening track 'The Fear', receives another gold star, a story of loneliness and anxiety, things that I think all of us can relate to at various stages of our lives, I know that I can.

Although rarely spoken of in the same league as 'Different Class', I have to say that this 1997 follow-up is quickly becoming my favourite of all the Pulp albums. It's different certainly, much more mature and vulnerable, lacking the usual (wonderful as they are) snide and seedy lyrics, and as a result of this, in my opinion, is able to yield some beautiful, and even superior results.
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on 9 April 2002
How do you follow the multi-platinum selling, perfect pop of Different Class? Well, you can wave bye bye to that gold disc and release your darkest collection of songs to date. That's exactly what Pulp did with This is Hardcore. It may have been considered a commercial "flop" by some insiders, but their loss was very much our gain. This is Hardcore is undoubtedly Pulp's finest collection of songs. It's depressing, funny, sad, despondent and uncomfortable to listen to if you are approaching that difficult age of 33. This is a moody, almost sleazy album in places and it's all the better for it. Different Class had an instant appeal to it, but I quickly lost interest.Two years on, Hardcore is still essential listening. That's the biggest compliment you can give to any album, if you still play and treasure it months after the hype has faded. It took a few listens for me to fully appreciate this album, but it soons hit you. Practically every listener will identify with the opening track The Fear. A tale of missed opportunities and panic attacks when everything goes horribly wrong. It all rings so true, and Jarvis knows it. Helped of course by the fine melody, the album touches on many fears but you sort of laff because Jarvis delivers his lyrics like some stand-up comedian. Other highlights include Helped The Aged and the title track which is aided along the way by strings Diva Anne Dudley. Hypnotic and seductive and quite simply brilliant. The track Dishes will make you chuckle whilst TV Movie and A Little Soul will scare you slightly. I never thought that Pulp would release a finer album than His N Hers, but Hardcore is in a class of it's own
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on 7 October 2003
'This Is Hardcore' is the morning after of the thirtysomething parties of the '90s. In a decade of 'This Life', Hornby, 'Sex & the City' & 'Bridget Jones' leaving people paranoid about the life they should be living, the album tells it how it really was during that period. Plus, is an accurate account of how life is for many, especially in the city. It really is the perfect album for those who've lived and are now paying for it. Many indie types (which I'm not I may add)don't like the lack of catchy tunes, and some tracks do muscially go on for too long (the end coda of the final track goes on for ages)yet the superb lyrics make it a must. Difficult at first, but delicious to finish with.
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on 12 June 2000
This is Pulp's equivalent to Blur's eponymous release, showing a darker and far less commercial side to their music. For the most part, the record is too inaccessible to be cherished, but their bravery is commendable, and songs like "Dishes" and (especially) the title track really grow on you.
Jarvis Cocker does exactly what Damon Albarn does on "Blur" and messes up the popular image of himself, perhaps deliberately to make himself less well-loved. He feels isolated and under threat by celebrity, society and "The Fear". He develops a (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) Jesus complex on the afore-mentioned "Dishes", comparing his initials and age to Christ's, whilst adding his usual healthy dose of bathos.
This record is worth buying for the title track alone. Encompassing everything from disco to Krautrock to Velvet Underground to Serge Gainsbourg, it is one of the group's very best, right up there with "Common People" and "Sorted for E's and Whizz", although you can be sure your parents won't like it.
Perhaps in general on this album, Cocker's wryness has faded somewhat and he is less ironic and post-modern and more philosophically naked and direct. That is no bad thing, as the group may have been in danger of turning into a novelty act.
With bands like Pulp, capable of embracing a pop sensibility AND really saying something, who needs vacant pop thrills?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 April 2014
This 1998 album from Sheffield's finest could be viewed as something of a transition (and, I would say, maturation) from the preceding commercial success of His n' Hers and their 'all-conquering' global album hit, Different Class. For This Is Hardcore, Cocker and band (largely) 'toned down' their previous pop exuberance, instead adopting a more sombre, reflective and (in the main) cynical and pessimistic stance for the album's songs. Ageing, sexualisation, drugs, domestic abuse, hedonism, misogyny, destructive effects of (seeking) fame - most being subjects Cocker had at least touched upon before but here the mood was darker, and perhaps reflected in the hiring of American artist John Currin and erstwhile Factory Music design guru Pete Saville to design the album's controversial, superficially glamorous, 'girlie-bedecked' sleeve (it's about as far as you can get from Saville's predominantly austere, 'industrial' design work for the likes of Joy Division and New order). Also, given the album's subject matter, I have often thought of This Is Hardcore as Cocker's 'Lou Reed incarnation' (Berlin?), albeit still shot through with the man's distinctively British, self-deprecating sense of wit and irony.

Suffice to say, I don't think there is really a weak moment here. There's much invigoration to be enjoyed on Party Hard, a warning against misplaced and potentially dangerous hedonism; Cocker's critique of the 'male stereotype' in I'm A Man; the relatively conventional Sylvia (about as close as Jarvis gets to a straight 'love song' here) and (for me, probably the most 'Different Class-like' song here), the superb Glory Days, musically relatively conventional, but with some of the funniest, fame-denigrating, lyrics here - of course, you always need to beware when any Cocker song has so potentially celebratory a title, as the man quips, 'Oh my face is unappealing and my thoughts are unoriginal', and 'I could be a genius if I just put my mind to it, and I could do anything if only I could get round to it'.

Equally, there are sublime 'ballads', none more so than the 'back down to earth' message of Dishes, where Cocker caustically disparages pop (or indeed any form of) idolatry ('I am not Jesus though I have the same initials'). Similarly, ageing and domestic abuse get deceptively mellow treatment on each of Help The Aged and A Little Soul. At the more expansive end of the musical spectrum, drugs (and maybe musical salvation) are at the heart of the sweeping arrangements of album opener The Fear, whilst 'sexualisation' takes centre stage, literally, on the magnificent irony of the album's title track and on Seductive Barry, a song which can (almost) be interpreted as a straight soul song (mesmerising masterpiece even?), following Neneh Cherry's spoken intro 'Here in the night love takes control'. Indeed, although I always think of Gervais and Merchant's 'Barry off Eastenders' (from Extras) at any mention of 'Barry', it's clear that Jarvis' spoken 'love poem' (as it were) here is something of a tongue-in-cheek tribute (sweeping string arrangements and all) to the 'Walrus of Love'.

Concluding the album with the more 'political' The Day After The Revolution (almost certainly a dig at Blair's first election victory) - which was later followed by the even more vitriolic take on 'who rules the world' on Cocker's first solo album - I conclude that there's much to admire here and that the (music) world is a much 'lesser place' without this modern poet's distinctive voice (roll on a new solo album!).
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on 24 March 2013
"I'd like to make this water wine but it's impossible - I've got to get these dishes dry"

There are few albums as astonishing and in the groove as "This is Hardcore". One would think it would think it would be difficult to follow up such a landmark album as "Different Class". To be frank while not as immediate as it's predessor This is Hardcore is without a doubt Pulp's best moment. This is Hardcore has the most mind opening compositons - the most intriguing and the most capturing, well layered atmospheres take one more look at it and it's obvious - due to it's volume, depth and ambition. The album is made complete with socially aware lyrics composed with a great amout of wit not at all shy demonstrating working class pride.

"This is Hardcore" finds the group confident enough to make a grand stand and move beyond regular pop territory, the arragments are lush and not afraid to be expansive. Musically this album plays like the everyday life of an ordinary bloke - it's got a bit of everything in there."This is Hardcore" has a a mulitleyered, reflective and deep atmosphere. This is Hardcore reflects over lifes struggles, all the ups and downs in a wholesome way and although not always as pop and pep as many other albums of the tme it leaves a big impression. The album ends with the epic, inspirational and uplifting"The Day After The Revolution". "Revolution" finds PULP at their most progressive and most visionary. It serves as the perfect reminder that even though life is a hard struggle , there there is still hope. It's a perfect finale filled with optimism joy and lingering anticipation- The album is hearing for that song alone.
Also wonderful is "Help the Aged" not only perfect for it's breezy good flowing atmosphere, but also for it's down to earth and socially concious message. "Silvia", "Glory Days" and the somber "TV movie" are equally touching. Listen to "Dishes" and Remember what Jarvis Cocker said. "I am not Jesus though I have the same initials - I am the man who stays home to do the dishes" It good to hear a group on doesn't let the Pop star mentality go to their heads. Pulp remaind steadily on the ground, This is Hardcore is this hard working bands finest moment. It is especially nice to hear because it's so down to earth. Some topics being dealth with on the album are a bit heavy - but that's life. Party Hard ponders the question "If you didnt come to party - then why did you come" The song like many others on this fanastic album urges the people to think before they act.
This is Hardcore is so brilliant on so many different levels - those who are still convinced after all these years that "Rubber Soul" is the best thing since sliced bread should really lend and ear to this album.
People who thought Pulp was just a "nice singles band" after hearing "Disco 2000" or the singles that make up "Intro" (see review) will surely be captivated by "This is Hardcore"

Now I am fully aware that Different Class is a great album, but "This is Hardcore" is to be frank The Buisneez. One of the best allbums ever made.

"The revolution begins and ends with you.
Now all the breakdowns and nightmares look small.
Now we decided not to die after all"

By the way if you like this album you might consider listening to:
O.K Computer by Radiohead
Urban Hymns by The Verve

If you are the slightest into 70's music why not check out "Back to the Egg" that like "This is Hardcore" was produdced by Chris Thomas.
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on 1 March 2005
"This is our 'Music from A Bachelor's Den' / the sound of loneliness turned up to ten / a horror soundtrack / from a stagnant water bed... / and it sounds just like this". The first line of the first track, The Fear, ably establishes the dark, decaying feeling of the morning after that Pulp we're surely feeling following the fallout of Britpop and the unparalleled success of their previous album Different Class following years of indie-obscurity. Whereas that record had revelled in giddy excess, chip-shop glamour and tales of boozed-up holidays and promises of meeting old loves in the new millennium, This Is Hardcore instead takes a long hard look in the mirror, gargles out the stench of the alchopops and brushes away the debris of another soulless night on the town to find the hollow, soulless feeling of middle-age slowly creeping in.

The songs on This Is Hardcore reflect a life at the crossroads, with a narrator no longer impressed by one-night stands, drug-fuelled odysseys, discothèques and night clubs, and instead, realising the emptiness and self-parody at the heart of shallow celebrity. Although it's safe to say that Cocker had always preferred to sing about the outcasts and losers at the heart of a sleazy society, there had always been an element of celebration or romanticism to undercut the images of peeling wallpaper, teenage bunk-ups or drugged-fuelled trysts. Here, his characters are presented in grainy close-up, with the stench of tobacco tainted family rooms, alcohol soaked clothes and personal defeat, all positively rife from one song to the next. From the opening track, which recalls the seedy voyeurism of I Spy, but takes things further into the haze of drug-induced paranoia (gelling with the art-work and reminding me of the character from Pink Floyd's The Wall... that jaded rock star hiding away behind the façade of his chic penthouse apartment, which has also become his tomb!!) with the production work of Chris Thomas further expanding the sonic landscape to take in ambient/electronic elements and the odd nod to trip-hop, whilst the band favour a more stripped down sound with acoustic guitars, live drums and a hint of orchestration.

The juxtaposition this creates is perfectly in tune with the themes behind the music, with the combination of arrangements and production creating a hollow vacuum of excess that the heart and soul (of both the music and the narrator) must cast off in order to further understand who they really are. Here, the lyrics throughout are more confessional in tone than the anthemic musings of His N' Hers and Different Class, with Cocker continuing The Fear with lyrics like "this is the sound of someone loosing the plot / making out that they're ok when they're not / you're gonn'a like this... / but not a lot / and the chorus goes like this", before the rest of the band join in and the song takes off into something that more closely resembles the classic Pulp sound. The next track, Dishes, is one of the more minimal offerings... beginning with a hint of keyboards and Cocker's dead-pan vocals intoning "I am not Jesus, though I have the same intials / I'm the man, who stays home and does the dishes...". The song later blooms into something more pop-like in feel, with the rest of the band eventually joining in to add drums and a keyboard counter-melody, creating a piece of music that's not a million miles away from the songs on Different Class.

Although the music here has that distinctive Pulp sound, the lyrics remain dark and despondent throughout... This isn't an album for those wanting to sing along with the common people, but rather, an album to cry yourself to sleep to when you realise she isn't coming home (and on top of that, she's left you with the kids!!). There's the typically mordant streak of humour featured throughout, but the songs are less boisterous. Even something like Party Hard, which has a sparkling keyboard melody care of Candida Doyle seems worn down and weary, with Cocker's not-quite-there-vocals exposing the tedium behind the whole Britpop scene ("and have you ever stopped to ask yourself / if you didn't want to party... / then why did you come here?"). Next is Help the Aged, a lush little song with gorgeous strings, languid percussion and Cocker's sleepy vocals all luring us into a (mostly) gentle song about the foibles of growing up, with Cocker's main concern being the loss of stamina and libido when everything starts going grey, falling out, or heading south for the winter.

True, the album isn't without it's flaws... like a lot of albums from the same period, it's probably too long, with the record as a whole pushing the 60 minute mark, whilst songs like Glory Days, Seductive Barry and Day After the Revolution would have probably made better B-sides. But that said, the rest of the album is fantastic stuff, with Pulp pushing their sound in such a way that it manages to reference both the early sound of It... and Freaks, as well as the peak His N' Hers/Different Class Britpop years, whilst simultaneously forging a new sound pitched somewhere in between. The use of sampling and lighter touches of trip-hop in the title track is fantastic, with the huge orchestral feel mixed with the drums and pianos, not to mention Cocker's sly lyrics ("this is hardcore... you make me hard"). There's also TV Movie, a largely acoustic song with clever lyrics that hold a double meaning ("without you my life has become / a hangover without end / a move... / made for TV /bad dialog / bad acting / no interest / too long with no story and no sex"), the gorgeous Little Soul, which is possibly the greatest song Cocker has ever written, and the joyous pop of Sylvia, which leads us towards the end on a bitter high ("I can't help you but I know things are gonna get better!").

This is Hardcore is perhaps a little rough around the edges... but, regardless, it still represents Pulp at the peak of their abilities. The combination of great pop melodies with darker lyrics that seem to point more towards Cocker's true feelings circa '98 works well, and shows Pulp to be probably the most vital band of the Britpop-era (...alongside Radiohead, The Divine Comedy and Luke Haines).
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on 14 August 2007
Uncomfortable is probably the best word to describe this album. It's not always an easy listen, the sonics of the production tend towards the treble on a great deal of the songs and gone is the shimmering pop sheen of A Different Class (which to be honest I think was overrated, His 'n' Hers being a "purer" version of the same ideas.) It's really worth getting hold of some of the singles from around this time as the b-sides such as The Professional, Champagne Socialism and Ladies Man are better than some of the songs on here and really spell out Jarvis' dissillusion and dissenchantment with the pop world he had spent so long trying to enter. There are times on this album when you feel Jarvis whispering in your ear and it so often sounds like a broken man crying for help but feeling strangled. It's not pleasant but it's definitely more soulful than the formulaic work they had started to produce in the wake of Britpop. Musically, despite what the other reviewers say, I think that Pulp changed completely with this album and never returned to anything approaching their previous sound. The songs are generally much slower, rockier in a more traditional sense, with Bruce Springsteen and Elvis being evoked throughout the album in the guitar and vocal work. It feels as though they were consciously trying to escape everything that they felt was expected of them, regardless of the results, which is why some songs don't really work. The following album saw them relax a bit more into the new territory they were charting for themselves but this definitely felt like we were losing them and that's why it's such a great album. It's a bit like The Stone Roses' Second Coming, ironically, as Pulp made a leap up the ladder on the back of The Roses disintegration. You won't listen to it everyday but it's worth a spin if you're in the right mood.
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on 16 July 2004
Quirky alt-pop veterans Pulp offer here something altogether darker than the indie-club anthems they're known best for. Rather than being similar to their probably most well known album, Different Class, this album is more like a development of their earlier works such as Freaks.
The lyrics are as sharp as ever, and sustain what could otherwise be quite a repetitive album. There is a distinctively downbeat tone to this album and it seems that Cocker is really playing to his strengths here by exploring darker and seedier subject matter. In particular, This is Hardcore is a sleazy, sexy masterpiece. Sure, this album is depressing in places, but it's all so well crafted and the lyrics are so incisive it's hard not to enjoy yourself.
How many good tracks? Eight, out of 12
Best track: The Fear is a frank and unnerving opening track, which sets the tone of the rest of the album.
Worst track: Party Hard does not benefit from either the great lyrics, or the great vocals that make Pulp songs so distinctive.
This album marks a real turning point for Pulp. They seem to have really developed, and though they still explore the usual Pulp issues of sex, social alienation and life's seedier side, there is a marked maturity of sound on this album.
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