A different class
The oddest band in Britpop is reuniting. Great – it’s about time it was seen outside the laddish constraints of mid1990s culture.
IT’S no reflection on the quality of its back catalogue to suggest there’s something a little surprising about the general rejoicing that seems to have greeted the recent news of Pulp’s re-formation.
When the band announced an indefinite hiatus eight years ago, it didn’t exactly leave the world screaming for more. Its last studio album, 2001’s We Love Life, had demonstrated the band’s strengths to considerable effect and received rave reviews, but lasted only three weeks in the charts, 61 less than their big hit, 1995’s Different Class.
The next year, a greatest hits album fared even worse, reaching No.71 for one week before vanishing, prompting Pulp’s lead singer, Jarvis Cocker, to compare it to “a silent fart”: “For all that worrying and soul-searching,” he noted, “nobody was that arsed, evidently.”
It’s tempting to suggest that the apparent resurgence in public interest might be linked to Cocker’s award-winning Sunday Service show on BBC 6 Music burnishing his national-treasure status. But the truth probably has something to do not just with nostalgia, but with the benefit of hindsight, a desire to slightly rewrite history in their favour.
Eternally tagged as a Britpop band, Pulp was infinitely more interesting than that title suggests.
The baleful shadow cast over subsequent alt-rock by Oasis means the mid-1990s are remembered as the moment when indie music dumbed down for commercial glory, losing subtlety and nuance in pursuit of creating the kind of records that encouraged blokes to drunkenly put their arms around each other and sing along.
But Pulp didn’t dumb down. Its output remained as defiantly odd as it had been in the 1980s, when no one wanted to listen, or in the years immediately before Britpop, when it released a string of luridly brilliant singles picking at English obsessions with sex and class:
Ringmaster: Pulp’s lead singer, Jarvis Cocker, once professed he
couldn’t really see the point in reconstituting the group, but the fans were delighted when reunion
plans were confirmed.