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Pulp - This Is Hardcore
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sean lennon - into the sun

The Pulp story begins way back in 1978 when Jarvis Cocker was living in Sheffield and dreaming of being the leader of a rock band. Very little happened over the following five years to sustain that dream until 1983 when the first serious incarnation of Pulp came together and released their debut album 'It'. The albums 'Freaks' and 'Separations' followed soon but so did the singular lack of attention,until their 'My Legendary Girlfriend' song was awarded the prestigious NME "Single Of The Week" and a string of great Pulp singles followed including "Babies'. A record deal with Island Records saw them releasing 'His 'n' Hers' which rode into the Top 10 on the back of songs like 'Do You Remember The First Time?', 'Lipgloss' and the aforementioned 'Babies'.

In 1995 Jarvis Cocker began to have a serious effect on the contemporary British pop market. He dressed like a foppish dandy and exuded Wildean wit and charm while occasionally allowing a quick glimpse of his insecurities and complexities. At the Reading festival in August 1994, Pulp played the NME stage and debuted a new song called 'Common People' (a song described as 'The benchmark of 1990s popular realism" Gulp!). The word of mouth praise that followed that song saw it enter the charts at no. 2 almost nine months later when it was finally released as the first single off their new 'Different Class' album.

The album also produced the rave pop anthem 'Sorted For Es And Whiz' which needs no explanation. 'Disco 2000' and 'Something Changed' kept the album in the charts for most of 1996. It won the 1996 Mercury Music Prize for British album of the year, a triumph for Pulp in a year when Jarvis Cocker achieved fame, notoriety and, frankly, the respect of a generation of sensible music lovers when he mooned Michael Jackson at the Brit Awards ceremony. Jackson was laying on his evangelical dramatics a bit too much when Jarvis snapped and staged his one-person protest against what he, and many others, believed to be, um, beyond the pale..(sorry about that, couldn't resist!)

So here, with much to prove and a legion of fans to satisfy, is the new 1998 Pulp album, 'This Is Hardcore'. As always we get a wide selection of ideas, styles and weird stuff from these funsters but there's something very different lurking in this delicious group of twelve songs. Jarvis seems to have abandoned his unchallenged position as laddish spokesperson for the rave generation and writer of ironic and fun songs and gone for a darker sound and lyric than the two previous albums. This may lose them some fans, but those who are devoted or who persevere, will be handsomely rewarded. The first single, 'Help The Aged' seemed sweet and normal and drew the kids in with promises of goodies. Then it unleashed a non-stop barrage of scary, sexual and slightly seamy songs like opener 'The Fear', 'Party Hard' and the appropriately-titled hard core of this album, the seven minute gothic 'This Is Hardcore'.

The fear that Jarvis sings about on this album is more the fear of loneliness and desertion. Neneh Cherry guests on the nine-minute singing and moaning of "Seductive Barry" where Jarvis finds sex to be mechanical and devoid of the real emotion he so obviously desires. This new Jarvis style finds the 'Hardcore' album often sounding a mite depressing and turgid with distinct traces of Cockney Rebel (or should that be "Cocker-ney Rebel") in the mix. On 'Glory Days', however, Jarvis reinvents himself as a cross between David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen, even nicking the title from Bruce. On this, and 'Party Down', Cocker is going all out to usurp Bowie's "Thin White Duke" persona. But then on 'Dishes' he states his position with the lyrics: "I am not Jesus though I have the same initials/I am the man who stays home and does the dishes/I'd like to make this water wine but it's impossible/I've got to get these dishes dry.

The American version of this hour-long opus has "Like A Friend", the single from the "Great Expectations" soundtrack, tacked on as an extra track. So, if your'e a Pulp completist then the USA import copy is the one for you. I won't say that this is an accesible and fun-filled album, it certainly isn't! But Pulp, and Jarvis Cocker in particular, are still seeking ways to push their musical talents into new jungles and emotional landscapes. It's not an easy ride but after a few listens, the heart of this fascinating album begins to shine through. Pulp are already moving forward with strange smiles on their faces, this pop business just gets easier and easier!

Stephen "Sugar" Segerman 7/10

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