Pulp - This Is Hardcore
1998; Island Records; Sheffield, England
Jarvis Cocker is not Jesus. But he does have the same initials. And, hell, if they started a religion around him it would probably turn out it might turn out a bit better. Doing so would really piss him off though.
Pulp has been around a long time. Started when Mr. C was just sixteen in 1978, they kind of waddled around in the muck for a decade with Jarvis dissolving the rest of the band ever other year before settling on a line up in '87. And even then it was another eight years before anyone really gave a shit. In summer of '95 they released a single that fell into a really rare situation. It was an era defining song that actually deserved to be an era defining song. Weird. Riding on the back of 'Common People', Pulp realized that that needed an album to package it with. So, in three months they wrote, recorded, and released Different Class and that, also, turned out to be good. In fact, even though it was just an effort to capitalize on a hit, it's actually one of the best records in all of Britpop. Weird. Though, it really is the third oddity that is the strangest of all. Its Pulp ridiculous ability to write disco-inspired songs that are, at the same time, wildly wildly catchy and absolutely brilliant. This never fucking happens.
So a day came to pass when Jarvis Cocker could stand atop his peak at Glastonberry and look out across the country and know that everything he saw was his. These people wanting only the now were his. Oasis with their bigger-then-the-Beatles popularity was his. Blur bitterly leaving the park life behind was his. Kula Shaker talking about how great swastikas are was his. And as he gazed on the kingdom he knew there was only one way to go. OUT.
Three years, one lost band member, one lost girlfriend, and a mountain of cocaine later Pulp released This Is Hardcore. If there is a way that an album that hit #1 in its own country can commercial suicide this is it. The man who talked about how much he hated rich people realized he was now rich. The man who canonized the dream of revolution of the young realized not only did they fail, but that there was no revolution to begin with. The man who once slept with a mans wife purely as a form of revenge realized, well, that he had once slept with a mans wife purely as a form of revenge. This Is Hardcore is a bit hard to explain because I don't think there is any precedent. Somehow Jarvis spends an album relentlessly criticizing himself and looking at the pointlessness of everything without ever coming across as either Rivers Coumo circa Pinkerton or Robert Waters circa The Wall. Hell, I think I could listen to this album five hundred times in a row without getting annoyed at his depression, something not even OK Computer can manage.
In 'A Little Soul' a man looks at his son and begs his son not to turn out like him. Tells him son that the physical resemblance is as far as the likeness should go. 'Party Hard' and 'This Is Hardcore' and 'Seductive Barry' find him bitterly using clubs and sex as an escape even though he knows its just getting more fucked up as he goes along. In 'I'm A Man' he asks if he should even have started along in life at all, but he knows it doesn't matter.
The most depressing song to me is 'Glory Days'. So this is it? As we've gone I've sold out everything I had. I am poor and I am ugly and all I have are my drugs and my back-stabbing friends. I fought hard to get to the promise land but all I found there was unwashed dishes. We tried to take the world and the future but all I got was a scummy studio apartment. But it doesn't matter. These are still our glory days. And it will never ever be better then this. If you turn up the stereo real loud you might believe that we really made it.
The last song on the album deals with britpop. It deals with 'Common People' and 'Mis-shapes'. It dealt with 'Live Forever' and 'For Tomorrow' and the thousands of other songs of the era that swore that finally the young and the poor were going to rise up and throw out those in charge. The songs that were only thwarted by the fact that it never happened. The last song looks at the world after the revolution in Britain happened and says 'Isn't it all so nice. Aren't You Just So Fucking Happy?'
On the back of the album cover rests these words: It's Ok To Grow Up - Just As Long As You Don't Grow Old. Face It... You Are Young.
This is a very dangerous album. Step lightly.
1. The Fear
3. Party Hard
4. Help the Aged
5. This Is Hardcore
6. TV Movie
7. A Little Soul
8. I'm a Man
9. Seductive Barry
11. Glory Days
12. The Day After the Revolution