Pulp: From Compost To Flowering

29th November 2019

Title: His ’N’ Hers

Label : Island

A relatively modern selection for you, this time around and one that is looked upon fondly by Pulp themselves because it dragged them from years of obscurity towards a well deserved period in the sun, as it where. 

Created in Sheffield, this is a band who ripened on the vine towards a state of pure genius. Not that they planned it that way, nor did they want to ripen on anything, thank you very much. They wanted to be a hit from the off. 

When Jarvis Cocker formed Pulp in 1978 as Arabicus Pulp, they got off to a good start. Grabbed some experience, tightened up as a unit and recorded a demo sometime in 1980-1981. 

John Peel spiced it up and signed the band for a session, “John Peel did a Roadshow in Sheffield and I gave him a tape,” said Cocker. “He said he’d listen to it but I didn’t think he really would, but then he gave us a session, which was a very big thing for us. I mean, John Peel was one of the reasons that I got into music. It was the first time anyone had taken any notice of us so I thought, this is it then, this is what I’ll do with my life…doing a John Peel session made the group seem real.”

Pulp: From Compost To Flowering

That was November of 1981. At that point, the band would have been forgiven to expect success to quickly follow but that just wasn’t the case. Disappointment reigned that the group split (most left to go to University). 

Pulp released its first, slightly folkie, LP, It (1984) to a hail of prairie winds and tumbleweed. So the band split again. Then another one formed. The sound deepened and darkened. A host of singles were released on the Fire label (“I think it’s well documented that they haven’t exactly got a glowing reputation in the eyes of many artists. Idiot Bother by The Auteurs is very strongly rumoured to be about Fire Records.”) 

While Cocker, desperate to impress a girl one evening, fell out of a window and had to perform his subsequent concerts from a wheelchair (“I never used the wheelchair as a stage prop,” said Cocker, “as soon as I was well enough to get out of it, I didn’t use it. I’ve never believed in exploiting disability.”)

The LP that followed that Freaks, did nothing at all. The acid house-infused Separations LP was so coated in lethargy that it was released three years after it was finished (“Acid house definitely sidetracked Pulp for a bit.”).   

More singles were released.

Then Island signed them on the strength of one single, Babies. Then the band released His ’N’ Hers (1994) and, lo, light shone down upon their bare heads and the angels smiled upon them, “This was just a great big sigh of relief really,” said Cocker, “because for the first time ever in our long tortuous history we had enough time and money to do a record as we wanted to do it. It was really good because, having waited so long for that kind of opportunity, we weren’t going to mess it up.” 

What was revealed was a tight band – well, they had to be by now hadn’t they? – a synth-pop combo infused by Cocker’s wit with hooks and Bowie/Roxy style. Full of sex but ideas too. Joy and portent. Nostalgia and obsession. It was an album that had been perfectly baked.

And Cocker does see that. He does believe that the sometimes Proustian attention to detail on many of the band’s songs stem from this early days, “The only thing I can liken it to is as if you were locked in a room for a year – you would get to know everything about that room and you would pick up all the details. And I think that’s why our songs have often got a lot of detail in them, because I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to pick up on details. I do think that details are important in songs, I think that details reveal more than attempting to paint a massive broad canvas. But waiting around for our time to come definitely had an effect on Pulp.”

A new edition of the album has been released, on white vinyl and over two discs, remastered and cut at Abbey Road with a mastering quality that reflects that august body.

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