Like all good this-band-versus-that-band feuds, the English media spun delicious headlines in 1995 when two of their native bands, Blur and Oasis, fought for top spot in what was dubbed as “Battle of Britpop.” When the two bands released their singles on the same day (Blur’s “Country House” and Oasis’ “Roll With It”), they asked their fellow Brits to take a side, and things got ugly from there. I’ve always chosen Blur over Oasis; not only were they superior in songwriting, but they also handled the battle better. Blur took the cheeky route, like when bassist Alex James wore an Oasis t-shirt on Top of the Pops. And Oasis fired back angrily, which was no shocker to anyone. Liam Gallagher said he hoped Blur would “catch AIDS and die” while his brother Noel once said of Blur frontman Damon Albarn: “the thing that still pisses me off to this day is that cunt fuck said we engineered the battle with his bunch of wankers. Oasis don’t need to compete with a bunch of cunts.” Eloquent men.
Though Albarn and Gallagher have recently made up, the Blur vs. Oasis question still manages to creep up today as a question of preference. And though the answer for me is and always has been HANDS DOWN BLUR, that question does injustice to the Britpop genre because it overlooks the real best Britpopper: Pulp. (OK while we’re on the subject, Suede is fucking brilliant too).
Before we go on, there’s something you should know about me: I FUCKING LOVE PULP. Like, probably more than anyone you know. Just to drive that point home (and because I want to show it off), here’s my iPhone case, which is the cover of the band’s 1995 album Different Class:
Most people think I have the royal wedding on my iPhone and I’m like “Why the fuck would I put that there?”
Recently, frontman Jarvis Cocker hinted at some new Pulp songs in the works (!!!) but there was a lot of uncertainty about anything concrete happening as of yet. What is certain, though, is that the band is playing two NYC shows next week on April 10th and 11th (probably due to this prayer-tweet of mine) and it will be the greatest music event of my life. Cocker had worried that no one would be bothered about their reunion shows but erm, hello Jarvis if you’re reading this, I’m bothered – very, very bothered. Anyway, last I checked, tickets for the 10th are still available, and my love for Pulp isn’t gonna sell out a venue, so you should contemplate purchasing tickets. Meanwhile, let’s remember some Pulp highlights, and how they embodied Britpop better than their battling brothers Blur and Oasis.
The very year Blur and Oasis were dueling, Pulp put out their most celebrated album, Different Class. It was a testament to how they didn’t have to partake in their peers’ battle because they really were in a different class altogether. Written on the back of the record are these words: “Please understand. We don’t want no trouble. We just want the right to be different. That’s all.” The album title also alluded to Pulp’s narrative of the British social class system. Cocker not only embraced his class but he sang of the bleak life of the English lower class with such a seductive quality that he made it seem hip to be common.
It was uncool if your dad was loaded but it was cool to dance and drink and screw because there was nothing else to do. There was something sexy about being an outsider, scheming revenge on the cool rich kids. “We won’t use guns, we won’t use bombs, we’ll use the one thing we got more of – that’s our minds” Jarvis sings in “Misshapes," which was his riot anthem against the mindless blokes in the nicer parts of town.
If Pulp related to the underdogs as the voice of the common people, then they related to a larger British audience by singing about what the Brits love most: sex. Major Britpop points here, especially in the way he utilized sex as revenge on the upper class (i.e. fucking their wives). Everything Jarvis Cocker did was seductive – the moans and ooh-aahs, the hip shake, the caress of his deep voice emanating from his clementine lips. Ugh, I melt. That reminds me, one time when I was ‘DJing’ at a bar (made an iPod playlist, connected it to the speakers, let it roll like a pro), I put on Pulp’s “Pencil Skirt” and told some strangers around me how much this song turns me on (facepalm).
I mean, I’m sure many lads have seduced many a lasses with this track. A fan once asked Jarvis, “Do you think about sex as much as you sing about it?” and he replied, “More.” So basically, all the fucking time. My favorite Pulp album goes back and forth between Different Class and their 1994 release His ‘n’ Hers, which birthed one of my favorites, “Babies,” and the not so well-concealed euphemism “Pink Glove” – in which a girl finds herself in a relationship with a man who “doesn’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s pink and it’s tight […] he wants to wear your pink glove all the time.” In both “Pink Glove” and “Pencil Skirt,” Jarvis approaches women with the promise of sexual satisfaction, or at least the promise of filling an emotional void with his, err, cocker.
Even though Pulp is regarded as a 90s band, they formed in the late 70s and their first two albums were released in the 80s. Their debut full-length It dropped in 1983 followed by Freaks (1987), an overlooked album that had little commercial success, kind of like Blur’s underrated masterpiece Modern Life Is Rubbish. Their sound was darkest on Freaks, partly due to the drone chic addition of Russell Senior on vocals. Separations came out in 1992, which sounded like an explorative album spent figuring out what they should sound like as a band. They got it right in ’94 and ’95, their peak years, with His ‘n’ Hers and Different Class. Then came 1998’s This Is Hardcore, which read like the hangover to their mid-90s success. The last recording we heard from Pulp was 2001’s We Love Life, a pleasantly reflective exit to a decade of inactivity. Before I write an entire book on Pulp (because I really think I can), I’ll end with one song highlights from the band’s discography. Enjoy!
"MY LIGHTHOUSE” – IT (1983)
A mature sounding 20 year old takes a dip in the Britpop pool.
"ANOREXIC BEAUTY” – FREAKS (1987)
Russell Senior takes lead vocals on this one instead of Jarvis Cocker, but it’s too cool of a song to pass up.
"DEATH II” – SEPARATIONS (1992)
This one makes me wanna shake my shoulders while making my way through the crowded dancefloor of a foggy, drug-infested nightclub.
“DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME?” – HIS ‘N’ HERS (1994)
Fuuuuuuck, so good. One of their best, really. Also, this choosing one song thing is so difficult.
“BAD COVER VERSION” – WE LOVE LIFE (2001)
I can’t explain the image in the video, but don’t let that disturb you from enjoying this wonderful track.
Now that you’re convinced what a legendary band Pulp is, tickets for their show on April 10th can be bought here. You’re welcome.