"This record deals with fundamental things. In some
ways I suppose it's quite childlike. We stripped away
all things and in the end we were left with bare earth,
trees and nature". Jarvis Cocker is talking about the
forthcoming Pulp album, and as befits such a back-to-basics
exercise, he and the band have decided that it should
be their first to simply bear the name 'Pulp'.
"'This Is Hardcore' was a record about disillusionment,"
he continues. "Disillusionment can be a good thing,
because if you've grown up aspiring to a rock'n'roll
myth and then you get to this place and you decide maybe
it's not such a great place after all. Like levels of
VIP rooms at a party, and you end up stuck in a room
with five ego-maniacs. So the record became a necessary
purging. It was like being in a long dark tunnel, and
in the end we had to make something quite unpleasant.
But this time we decided to dig out towards the light.
You can't change the past so you have to find a way
or letting it not poison the future.'
what 'Pulp' feels like. When it was started the band
thought it would emerge as a folk album; it hasn't.
And Jarvis, keen to express that while it may represent
something that could be deemed a 'spiritual rebirth'
it is by no means 'happy clappy'. At least two animals,
one person, four love affairs and a lot of hopes die
throughout its 55 minutes - so they have a way to go
before they achieve pain-free nirvana.
All these trees, flowers and fur-bearing critters have
led certain early commentators to dub this Pulp's 'pastoral
work'. But, brought up in Sheffield and living in London,
there is a definite whiff of the smelly canal towpath,
rather than fragrant rural idyll, about 'Pulp'. The
pivotal 'Wickerman' perhaps, exemplifies this, where
Jarvis leads us through the 'brickwork conduits' of
the Rivers Porter and Don, as they flow through the
Victorian sewers under Sheffield. He rewrites a subterranean
dingy journey as an exploration towards his teenage
heart of darkness. 'I like the way the river is demeaned
but it's still there. I like the idea of threads running
Scott Walker produced this song - and indeed
the remaining 10 songs on this Pulp's seventh album
- and his epic fingerprints (which so influenced the
nascent Pulp) are all over it. Elsewhere, less celebrated
60's icon Bob Lind ('Elusive Butterfly', anyone?)
gives his name to one of the record's breeziest tunes,
overlaid with a typically downbeat lyric. 'It will not
stop/ it will get worse from day-to-day/ until you admit
that you're a fuck up/ like the rest of us,' opines
the Jarv. in typically cautionary style. 'Successful
people think that their lives should be successful in
every regard. That their relationships and trips to
the shops should be successful. But they're not,' says
Jarvis, hinting at a possible autobiographical strand
to the song. No wonder the subtitle is 'The Only Way
But it is a spirit of hopeful change that pervades 'Pulp'.
Its 'adapt-and-survive' ethos underpins the song 'Weeds',
where the class-war Pulp resurface with anthemic power.
'It's about how the underclass is exploited as entertainment
by the middle classes,' says Jarvis. 'All the best ideas
in music and fashion tend to come 'the street', and
are then taken and used by others. It happens over and
over again in history.' But the 'weeds' grow stronger:
'It's like when you see a bush growing from the top
of a building - that's what people are like; they somehow
manage to grow and cling on in this environment.'
Musically 'Weeds' personifies the more muscular sound
that identifies 'Pulp' in general, and Scott Walker's
production specifically; the first time Scott has ever
produced anyone else's work. 'As well as being more
naturally themed, the songs were recorded more naturally
with us just playing,' says Jarvis. The results are
a far cry from the grown-in-the-dark Pulp sound of old,
with Mark Webber's guitar playing on the closing 'Sunrise'
hitting previously unattained heights of spirituality.
'Scott just made us feel really comfortable,' says Jarvis.
One thing that was perhaps less comfortable was Jarvis
having to tell Scott that he had included one of his
albums in a list of disappointments in the song 'bad
Cover Version'. The second side of Scott's 1970 album
'Til The Band Comes In' fits in with an 'own brand box
of cornflakes' and "the 'Stones since the 80s" in the
parade of pale intimations. 'We wrote that before we
went in with Scott, and I was dreading telling him.
So in the end I just went in and blurted it out, and
he just laughed. The thing is with that album is the
first side's really good, but then side two is just
cover versions, and you keep on imagining you are going
to hear the sound of a towel being thrown in.'
, which coupled with 'Sunrise', will be the first double-A
single continues the nature theme. But it's a slightly
uneasy relationship between man and plant, with Jarvis
berating 'the trees, those useless trees', before going
on to point out that they do 'produce the air that I
am breathing'. It's one man's struggle with universal
indifference, built around a magical orchestral riff
taken from Stanley 'Cavatina' Myer's score for
1960's spy caper 'Otley' (starring Tom Courtney).
'Birds In Your Garden' contains actual artificial 3-D
birdcalls generated in the entirely unnatural environs
of the Institute of Sound & Vibration at Southampton
University. Should give the twitchers among you something
to think about, trying to sort out whether it's a hoopoe
or a corncrake.
'Minnie Timperley' is a dark and sordid tale of the
vivacious lead character's slaughter at the hands of
a 'paunchy but dangerous' assailant. Fortunately it
is only based around a dream Jarvis had of going to
a Scottish rave with Steve. 'Roadkill' is, however,
a true and affecting story of a deer that lies dying
in the road, while our commentator decides whether or
not to take it as a sign of another doomed relationship.
'I Love Life' contains all of the duality you might
expect from a title like that, with Jarvis declaring
with a certain amount of Larkin-esque bleakness that
'your Mum and Dad have sentenced you to life'. It begins
sweetly enough, but soon degenerates until you can't
tell the love from the hate. 'It's a song about somebody
trying to regain control of their life,' says Jarvis.
And do they succeed? 'Well, in the song they might manage'
'PULP': Weeds, Origin of the Species, Minnie Timperley,
Trees, Wickerman, I Love Life, Birds in Your Garden,
Bob Lind, Bad Cover Version, Roadkill, Sunrise.
A promo-only 12-inch of 'Sunrise' in all its Axelrod-ian
glory is currently highly sought-after, and includes
mixes by fellow Sheffield residents All Seeing I and
Fat Truckers. Both of these artists form part of Desperate,
a loose DJ collective that includes Jarvis and Steve
from Pulp, along with Barry 7, Winston & Pipes and JP
Buckle from the National Bandit.
'Pulp' is released by Island Records on Oct 22nd. The
single, 'Trees'/'Sunrise' precedes it on Oct 8th.
The Night That Minnie Timperly Died
I Love Life
Crud Magazine© 2001