Music / Pulp

"Please understand. We don't want no trouble. We just want the right to be different. That's all."
— Liner notes for "Different Class"

Pulp are an Alternative Rock band which originally formed in Sheffield in 1978 as Arabicus Pulp - name mercifully shortened a year later - during lead singer Jarvis Cocker's school days. For all the band's longevity, they remained relatively under the radar during the first phase of their career. A tough young bunch that had been likened to The Fall, they remained largely unnoticed, though many reviewers as well as DJ John Peel were known to enjoy their music.

After Jarvis had an accident that resulted in multiple broken bones and several months in hospital, he decided to start writing lyrics that more accurately documented ordinary lives. As more members were added and time ticked by, the band crept closer to the sound that would finally bring them fame and popularity. With the addition of Russell Senior and Candida Doyle, Pulp took a turn for the darker; recording Freaks, their 1987 release. In 1988 Jarvis went away to London to study at St Martins college where he would catch the eye of Steve Mackey, who would become the band's bassist as they perfected their new "Eurodisco" sound. By the time Steve and Jarvis finished college, the band's lineup had stabilised, with Nick Banks having joined as drummer and Mark Webber playing with Pulp onstage. Their music gained favour as they came into their own stylistically with 1994's His 'n' Hers just as the eighties-contrived term Britpop entered popular culture.

Then in 1995, after the greatly successful releases of the single 'Common People' and album Different Class, as well as a performance at the Glastonbury festival, Pulp achieved full penetration. Though they never quite eclipsed the ever-feuding Blur and Oasis in commercial popularity, they received heaps of critical adoration, most of it focusing on Jarvis' wry and witty lyrics. However, the morning after was not nearly so enjoyable for Jarvis. The backlash from his stage invasion during Michael Jackson's performance at the 1996 Brit Awards resulted in a night in jail and much attention of the wrong kind. note  This, combined with the pressures of fame, resulted in his descent into a dark place. The followup album that Pulp were trying to piece together ended up taking more than a year to record and when it was finished, This Is Hardcore sounded very different indeed.

After a short break, the band came back together to record what would be their last album, 2001's We Love Life, which was produced by Jarvis's long-time idol Scott Walker. The final blow that caused the band to go back on a seemingly-indefinite hiatus was the compilation album Hits doing far worse in the charts than expected. Jarvis went on to a solo career. In late 2010 Pulp announced that they would be reuniting summer 2011 to play festivals across Europe, including headlining shows at Reading and Leeds. Despite worries within the fanbase that this would be the last year Pulp would play live before going on hiatus yet again, the band toured again in 2012, culminating in a final gig in Sheffield, and the release of a newly-recorded version of 'After You' to fans as a digital download. Is this the end for Pulp? Only time will tell.

Although Jarvis is the only constant member, their best known line-up (and the one reunited in 2011) consists of him (vocals), Russell Senior (guitar, violin), Mark Webber (guitar), Candida Doyle (keyboards), Steve Mackey (bass) and Nick Banks (drums).

  • It (1983)
  • Freaks (1986)
  • Separations (1992)
  • His 'N' Hers (1994)
  • Different Class (1995)
  • This Is Hardcore (1998)
  • We Love Life (2001)

The bits that "Hello" leaves out:

  • Age-Progression Song - Disco 2000 ("born within an hour of each other", "the first girl at school to get breasts", and "you can even bring your baby")
  • All Love Is Unrequited - "Disco 2000".
  • Anti-Love Song - "Do You Remember the First Time?", "I Spy"
  • Audience Participation Song - "Common People". Even on the mastered versions of this performance that they've released, you can still hear the crowd's voice better than Jarvis'. It fits the song though.
  • Bastard Boyfriend - The girl's boyfriend in "Pink Glove".
  • Black Comedy - Several of their songs could qualify as this.
  • Book Ends - Their debut album It is organic and folky, a far cry from the disco/synth-tinged Pop they'd become famous for. Fast-forward to their last album We Love Life, and the band returns to an organic, somewhat folky sound.
  • Break-Up Song - "Bad Cover Version" and "Razzmatazz", mostly of the 'I'm Over You' variety.
  • Creator Provincialism - A lot of their stuff is very specifically about Sheffield, most notably "Wickerman".
  • Childhood Friend Romance "Disco 2000" is the unlucky childhood friend variation.
  • Darker and Edgier
    • Within the albums that the non-hardcore fans have heard of, This Is Hardcore so, so much - it's basically Jarvis' musical midlife crisis. But it could also be seen as something of a return to form as their 80s albums were very brooding.
    • Freaks was this after the largely cheerful Folk Pop of It. The band swerved heavily into said brooding Post-Punk theatrics, having lost almost the entire lineup that recorded It.
  • Deadpan Snarker - Jarvis, in both his lyrics and in real life.
  • Death Song - "She's Dead", "Death II", "The Night that Minnie Timperley Died", "The Trees". Amusingly, these became more frequent starting in We Love Life.
  • Epic Rocking - "David's Last Summer", "The Day After the Revolution" (except on the U.S. release), "Seductive Barry", "Wickerman", "This Is Hardcore", "Sheffield: Sex City", "Deep Fried In Kelvin".
    • Although the U.K. version of "The Day After the Revolution" is really five minutes of a real song and ten minutes of swirling ambient noise, which hardly constitutes as rocking.
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned - "Sorted Out For E's & Wizz" is about someone going to a drug-fueled rave.
    In the middle of the night
    But then tomorrow morning
  • Intercourse with You - at least every other song:
    • "This Is Hardcore" is six-and-half minutes of single entendres so blunt that you start wondering if it's all supposed to be a metaphor for something else altogether.
      • According to Jarvis, "This Is Hardcore" is meant to be about fame, though it was inspired by pornography. And performances like this certainly don't help.
    • "I Spy" and "Babies", whilst not relatively speaking that explicit, are two of the most uncomfortable sex songs ever.
    • It's probably easier to name all their songs that don't include any sexual references.
  • Long-Runners - Continued in some shape or form (albeit at varying amounts of success) from 1978 - 2001 and reunited from 2011-2014.
  • Lyrical Dissonance - Many, many, many examples, but "Disco 2000" immediately comes to mind - it's a song about meeting up again with an over-the-hill unrequited childhood crush, all set over a guitar riff lifted from Laura Branigan's Gloria. And "Disco 2000" contains some of the bands most sentimental lyrics.
    • Another notable example is "Babies", a poppy, danceable, upbeat-sounding track about hiding in your friend's older sister's wardrobe and watching her have sex with her boyfriend. Yeah.
    • Razzmatazz, one of their most energetic, fun sounding tracks set to one of the most bitter, vicious 'I'm over you' breakup songs in history.
  • New Sound Album - While each of their albums progresses from the last, His 'N' Hers shows a marked difference from their more introspective, artsy records of the 80s, and is generally considered a vast improvement. We Love Life could also be considered this to a lesser extent, as it sounds much more naturalistic and organic than the albums that preceded it. "This Is Hardcore" also could be considered this, aiming for a much darker, more introspective and less upbeat sound than on "His 'N' Hers" and "Different Class".
  • The '90s
  • Obsession Song - "I Spy" has heavily-painted shades of this, with a good swath of pent-up class aggression on the side.
  • Older Than They Look: Their heyday came in the mid-to-late 90's however the band was founded in The '70s and active throughout The '80s.
  • One-Word Title: The band name, and also It, Freaks and Separations
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice - Wouldn't be a 90s alt rock band without one.
  • Recycled Lyrics references to pudgy kids "addicted to coffee-whitener" appeared in two songs which were later scrapped ("Catcliffe Shakedown" and "Modern Marriage") before finally turning up in "Wickerman".
  • Rock-Star Song - Much of This Is Hardcore, especially the B-side "Cocaine Socialism".
  • Sexual Karma - "Pink Glove". A girl's boyfriend forces her to dress up to satisfy his fetish. The speaker of the song suggests that she's "got it right first time", as it's all she's going to get since she didn't hook up with him instead.
  • Silly Love Songs - Several from It: "Love Love", which is about enjoying the emotion of love, and "My Lighthouse", about a man who wants his love interest to come live with him in the titular lighthouse.
  • Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism - Rather snark-ily cynical, except on "It", where they sit comfortably on the idealistic side of the scale.
  • Slumming It - "Common People" may be the archetypical song on this topic. It's also, arguably, one of the most scathing uses of this trope.
  • Song Style Shift - "Like A Friend"
  • Spoken Word in Music - It would almost be easier to name songs which don't have an interlude using this trope, but we'll stick to listing examples for the time being:
    • "Love is Blind" from Separations: "We held hands and we looked out of the bedroom window . . . "
    • "Sheffield: Sex City"
    • "Inside Susan"
    • "Deep Fried In Kelvin"
    • The verses of "Acrylic Afternoons", and most of "David's Last Summer" from His 'N' Hers.
    • "I Spy" and "F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E." off of Different Class
    • In an interesting example, the single mix of "Disco 2000" has one, however the album version does not.
    • "A Little Soul" from This Is Hardcore.
    • "Seductive Barry" from "This Is Hardcore".
    • "Wickerman" from We Love Life is Jarvis speaking over background music for nearly eight minutes.
    • William Shatner's cover of Common People is made of equal parts this and awesome.
  • Stepford Smiler: From "The Fear":
    This is the sound of someone losing the plot/Making out that they're okay when they're not.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: "Sheffield: Sex City" contains a spoken monologue from keyboardist Candida Doyle, her only vocal performance in her long tenure with the band.
  • Take That! - "Common People" viciously skewers rich kids who glamorize the working class life.
    • "Mis-Shapes" is a misfit's revenge fantasy against townies.
    • "I Spy" idolizes the luvvie lifestyle then viciously trashes it.
      My favourite parks are car parks/Grass is something you smoke/Birds are something you shag/Take your Year In Provence/And shove it up your assssss...
  • This Is a Song - "The Fear":
    So now you know the words to our song,
    Pretty soon you'll all be singing along.
    When you're sad, when you're lonely & it all turns out wrong.
  • Upper-Class Twit: the clueless rich girl who is portrayed in "Common People".
  • A Touch of Class, Ethnicity and Religion: A lot, with "Common People" as the standout on class. Although there's also "I Spy" (see Take That!, above).
    • Much of "Different Class" covers the 'class' area of this trope.
  • Wretched Hive: "Mile End"
    • "Deep Fried In Kelvin" also qualifies.
    • "After You" seems to mention one.
    • "The Fear" possibly also hints at one.

What are you frightened of? (And remember - shove it in sideways)