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Music / Pulp

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We don't look the same as you, we don't do the things you do, but we live round here too.note 
"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 the 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 the Post-Punk album 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 lots of attention... of the wrong kind. note  This, combined with the pressures of fame, resulted in his descent into a dark mental state. The followup album that Pulp were trying to piece together ended up taking more than a year to record due to Writer's Block – 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 that 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 tropes that 'Hello' leaves out":

  • The '90s: They achieved the most acclaim and success during this decade and released their best-known work during it; however, they had been active throughout The '80s, and had even formed at the end of The '70s.
  • 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.
  • 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", "Like A Friend" and "Razzmatazz", mostly of the 'I'm Over You' variety.
  • Call-Back:
    • A subtle one. At the very start of the first track on "This Is Hardcore", "The Fear", the very last seconds of the final track of the previous album, "Different Class", "Bar Italia" can be heard.
    • A less subtle one, in the lyrics of the "This Is Hardcore" B-Side, "Cocaine Socialism", there is a Title Drop of the songs "Mis-Shapes" and "Common People", from "Different Class".
  • Creator Provincialism: A lot of their stuff is very specifically about Sheffield, most notably "Wickerman". Other notable examples include "Deep Fried In Kelvin" and "Sheffield: Sex City" (obviously).
  • Childhood Friend Romance: "Disco 2000" is the Unlucky Childhood Friend variation.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Freaks was this after the largely cheerful Folk Pop of It. The band swerved heavily into brooding Post-Punk theatrics, having lost almost the entire lineup that recorded It.
    • Within the albums that the non-hardcore fans have heard of, This Is Hardcore so, so much - it's basically Jarvis' musical midlife crisis.
  • 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.
  • Domestic Abuser: The girl's boyfriend in "Pink Glove".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: It consists mostly of acoustic folk-rock, while Freaks is brooding Post-Punk. Separations is closer to the dramatic, glammy Brit Pop they would be known for on its first half, but the second half is composed of House Music experiments far removed from even the most danceable of their later tracks.
  • Epic Rocking: "David's Last Summer", "The Day After the Revolution" (although it's really five minutes of a song and ten minutes of swirling ambient noise), "Seductive Barry", "Wickerman", "This Is Hardcore", "Sheffield: Sex City", "Deep Fried In Kelvin".
  • 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
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Deep Fried In Kelvin" does this very briefly, only rapidly fading back in for a Last Note Nightmare.
  • Horrible Housing: The crux of "Mile End" concerns a group of desperate squatters forced to live in an abandoned 15th-floor apartment in a Mile End tower block: the place was boarded up to start with, it "smelled as if someone had died", the kitchen sink is blocked, the bathroom sink is gone, someone keeps pissing in the lift, and the neigbourhood is a crime-ridden hellhole where cars are regularly set on fire. According to Jarvis Cocker, this was actually based on a nine-month period stuck in one such apartment - which was so bad that Cocker was convinced that the previous tenant had murdered his wife and stuffed her down the drain (hence the sink blockage).
  • Intercourse with You: At least every other song. It's probably easier to name all their songs that don't include any sexual references:
    • "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, it 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.
  • Large Ham: Jarvis is a nerdy, wiry version of this, employing plenty of drama and theatrics in his vocals and on-stage performance.
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • "The Day After the Revolution", the final song of This Is Hardcore, finishes with approximately ten minutes' worth of quiet, swirling ambient noise. Part way through, Jarvis Cocker says "bye-bye" and makes you jump out of your skin. This was edited out of the American release and replaced with "Like a Friend".
    • Another example that comes out of nowhere and makes you jump out of your skin is "Deep Fried In Kelvin", which at the end seems to fade out normally, before rapidly fading back in with a sudden loud, discordant guitar screech that lasts only a second before the song ends, and you have to change your trousers.
    • "The Fear", also from This Is Hardcore, ends with what sounds like a screeching, heavily distorted siren.
    • Jarvis getting increasingly manic at the end of "Monday Morning".
    • The very end of "F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E", when the music cuts out leaving a high-pitched descending sound which sounds eerily like a bomb dropping. The sudden transition from this song into "Underwear" could also count.
    • The music becoming increasingly dark and doomy and Jarvis wailing at the end of "David's Last Summer".
    • If there's any song of theirs that can be considered this trope, it's "I Love Life". It starts off as a pretty quiet, relatively acoustic track which launches into a more energetic, rocking section about two-thirds of the way through, which quickly disintegrates into a cacophony of screaming guitars, clattering drums, doomy synths and Jarvis screaming, until the drums and guitars fade out leaving the ominous synths and Jarvis chanting "Breathe in, breathe out" as the song fades out.
    • The ending of "I Spy", being a Book Ends to the song, is a very eerie way to end what is a very eerie song.
    • Some tropers get goosebumps from the ending of Pink Glove.
  • Long-Runners: Continued in some shape or form (albeit at varying amounts of success) from 1978 - 2001 and reunited from 2011-2014.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Joyriders" and "Mis-Shapes".
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Disco 2000" is 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.
    • "Glory Days", One of the most upbeat tracks from This Is Hardcore, is an extremely cynical and bitter song about the cynicism, bitterness, boredom, desperation, crushed dreams and ennui of modern life, best shown with the lines:
      "Oh, we were brought up on the space race"
      "Now they expect you to clean toilets"
      "When you've seen how big the world is"
      "How can you make do with this?"
    • "Cocaine Socialism", a b-side, also counts, being a vicious Take That! at the schmooze of Tony Blair and New Labour, deriding them as shallow, corrupt and insincere, and how they are no longer truly socialists or the "people's party". All set to the music of the above-mentioned "Glory Days".
  • 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".
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Disco 2000"—The "Disco" part anyway.
  • Obsession Song: "I Spy" has heavily-painted shades of this, with a good swath of pent-up class aggression on the side.
  • Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: Invoked during the spoken preamble to the 1995 Glastonbury performance of "Common People":
    Jarvis: ...I did actually write a few things down, so let's see if I've missed any of them out. (looks at notes) erm... carrots, potatoes, peas, ... no, that's my shopping list...
  • Older Than They Look: Their heyday came in the mid-to-late 90's, and the band's members looked like they were in the early twenties, but the band was actually 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 singer 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.
  • Shout-Out: Much of the music video for “Common People” takes place on a dance floor with partygoers dancing in an endless loop.
  • 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 snarkily 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 ... "
    • "Styloroc: Nites of Suburbia"
    • "Sheffield: Sex City", which also features a second spoken vocal part from Candida Doyle.
    • "Inside Susan"
    • The verses of "Street Lites".
    • "Deep Fried In Kelvin" is probably the most extreme example of this in their discography, being a 9 minute song with the vocals being entirely spoken-word.
    • The song "His 'N' Hers" features a section of this, and the verses verge on this.
    • 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. It also is skewering much of the Britpop scene they were generally part of, particularly at acts like Blur, who promoted such “class tourism”, as Jarvis put it.
    • "Mis-Shapes" is a misfit's revenge fantasy against townies.
    • "Weeds" is another Take That! at Slumming It rich kids, while also celebrating the misfits (the titular "Weeds") of society, essentially being a cross between "Common People" and "Mis-Shapes".
    • "Cocaine Socialism" fires one at Tony Blair and New Labour, calling them insincere, corrupt, shallow sellouts, who are no longer truly 'The people's party'.
    • "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.
  • Time Marches On:
    • A subtle example. The 'fountain down the road' in "Disco 2000" apparently refers to the Goodwin fountain in Sheffield, however anyone wanting to meet there in the year 2000 would find it very difficult as it was demolished in 1998.
    • A more prominent example is "Deep Fried In Kelvin". The Kelvin flats, which the song was named after and is about, were demolished in 1995-1996.
  • Title by Year: "Disco 2000", written in 1995. Uses the year 2000 as a Literal Metaphor for a fresh start with an unrequited childhood crush.
  • Upper-Class Twit: The clueless rich girl who is portrayed in "Common People".
  • Wretched Hive: "Mile End"
    • "Deep Fried In Kelvin" also qualifies.
    • "After You" seems to mention one.
    • "The Fear" also seems to mention one.
    • "Sheffield: Sex City" could be considered an example of this.

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