MP3: Pulp Discography - Part Eleven: We Love Life (2001)
We Love Life took a long time to make, and it's no surprise that it didn't have the commercial impact of the previous two albums. It's a lot less instant, although it does have a few very catchy songs, and it's sometimes a lot harder to connect to on a lyrical level than say Different Class. By the time it came out, Britpop was really kind of dead, and I think a lot of the fans Pulp gained during their period of major commercial success may have moved on to other things. We Love Life was far from a big success, but remains one of the bands best albums, and one of the most loved by the bands fans in light of the bands split and the fantastic last few tours that they did off the back of the record. I only got to see Pulp twice, a fact for which I kick myself every day, but when I did see them it was one of the most exciting and fun live experiences i've had to date. I saw them at two Reading Festivals (2000 and 2002), and both times the level of togetherness and enjoyment they could create in the crowd was just over the top. I remember at the 2002 show that I'd lost track of the people i'd gone to the show with, and happened to get talking to a lone canadian who had just that day arrived in England, and had never in fact been in Europe before other than that day. Suffice to say that Pulp performance, played at the one time that the rain stopped that whole day, was a pretty massive thing for him, especially as he said he'd never met any other Britpop fans in his life. Damn their dirty eyes for splitting up before we could see them a hundred more times.
At first this album was said to be going to contain songs written during and slightly after the This Is Hardcore sessions, and was apparently going to be self titled. A selection of songs were played in Edinburgh in 1999, but only two of these would end up on the album. However the band would go on to write a lot more new songs, and began to play them in a series of small shows in 2000. The band actually stated that if the new songs hadn't gone down well live they would have split right then, so it's a damned good thing that they were able to come up with the goods. The album was originally scheduled to come out in 2000, but then the band announced that the Chris Thomas produced sessions that had been done so far had been completely scrapped. They decided to re-record everything in a 'more relaxed', less commercial fashion, and with the help of uber-God (and one of Jarvis' biggest influences) Scott Walker at the producing helm, they returned to the studio and finished the album. Walker's production is thankfully quite sparse, and I feel that's a good thing, as there was the possibility that if he had tried to make the songs sound alike to his Scott 1-4 records, or his Tilt record, it would have overwhelmed the often quiet or understated songs. His influence is definitely obvious at points (The Birds In Your Garden being a prime example), but it's never too imposing. In light of 9/11 the title had changed to We Love Life, and it was finally released in October 2001 to some critical acclaim but to pretty bad sales in comparison to their last three albums.
The album opens with the double shot of Weeds and Weeds II (the origin of the species), which both act as further ruminations on the themes of Mis-Shapes by talking about those people (well...Jarvis and his fans) who are considered the detritus of society. It's clear right away that the album is going to be a whole lot less poppy and instant than Different Class, and a lot less intense than Hardcore. If anything, tied to the albums artwork it could possibly be called the bands 'hippy' record. The chorus of Weeds is anthemic without sounding forced, and a great start. Weeds II is a good monologue continuing the themes of the first track, and has some choice lines, especially when Jarvis takes the piss of those who made him a caricature: '"Come on, do your dance!/Come on, do your funny little dance!"' The Night That Minnie Temperley Died follows, a song about the death of a girl at a rave that Jarvis and Steve had attended. It's good, but has never done that much for me. Don't ask me why, especially when I like all of the rest of the album, and even prefer songs that really probably aren't as good from a songwriting perspective. Trees was the albums first single, a double A-side with Sunrise. The single really didn't do very well, reaching an awful for Pulp number 23 on the single chart. It was probably tied to the fact that although its tremendous, it's not instantly catchy, had a less than great video (especially in comparison to older Pulp efforts), and that the single had no bsides other than a remix. Which is very annoying, because its really very nice. The production is very sparse and minimalist, it has a fantastic opening: 'I took an air rifle shot a magpie to the ground and it died without a sound/Your skin's so pale against the fallen autumn leaves and no-one saw us but the trees', but I guess lines like 'The smell of leaf mould and the sweetness of decay/Are the incense at the funeral procession here today' were never going to make for a hit. Wickerman. This is an amazing song. Easily the best thing on the album and from the second I heard it, it went straight into my top 5 Pulp songs. Maybe the most affecting monologue Jarvis has ever written, the lilting guitar backing fits the lyrics so well its untrue. This bit is amazing:
'I went there again for old time's sake, hoping to find the child's toy horse ride that played such a ridiculously tragic tune. It was still there, but none of the kids seemed interested in riding it. And the café was still there too, the same press-in plastic letters on the price list, and scuffed formica-top tables. I sat as close as possible to the seat where I met you that autumn afternoon, and then, after what seemed like hours of thinking about it, I finally took your face in my hands, and I kissed you for the first time, and a feeling like electricity flowed through my whole body, and I immediately knew I'd entered a completely different world... and all that time, in the background, the sound of that ridiculously heartbreaking child's ride outside...'.
Sort of sums up everything that's wonderful and sad and brilliant about Pulp and about Cocker's songwriting. It's available to download below. Get it. Even if you've already got the album, just download it and marvel again at how great it is. The title track follows, and it's lovely and sad and whimsical, and builds to a fantastic finish. Again, it's not exactly Disco 2000. But that's whats nice about it, the songwriting feels very very natural and without specific purpose (to be a hit/to be catchy/to sound new). It was also very good live. In fact all of the songs from the album were, and in particular Sunrise became a classic set closer. Other than Wicker, Birds In Your Garden is probably my favourite song on the album. From the guitar motif and bird singing of the intro, through every melody and lyric, it works absolutely perfectly. Someone at Bar Italia says it well: 'A slow, lighters-aloft ballad with what might be the best chorus ever written, this would be a standout track on any album. By anyone. Anywhere. Ever. Ever.' As I said before, it's very Scott Walker-esque, and it would be really great fun to hear Scott doing an album of Pulp covers. Bob Lind (the only was is down) is a weird one. It's initially hard to pick up the melody, but some of the lyrics really stand out 'It will not stop/It will get worse from day to day/'Til you admit that you're a fuck-up like the rest of us', and the chorus is very endearing. Sounds a lot like Belle & Sebastian. If Stuey Murdoch's voice had broken. Bad Cover Version is the true lost Pulp single, perfect in every way, and luckily did manage to at least get to number 27 on the back of an incredibly funny video. The songwriting is perfect, very funny, and the melody and string arrangement are top notch. The video features a bunch of bad (or good) impersonators of famous musicians performing the song in the style of a charity single (basically it's the Band Aid video but funny). There's a link to it below. It's incredible, and for some reason it always gives me shivers down the spine (although the album version doesn't, oddly). Also features a great cameo from Jarvis as Brian May at the end. Definitely one of my favourite videos of all time. The second to last track on the record, Roadkill, is so sweet and sad that I think that for me it's one of the most depressing things i've ever heard. There's absolutely no humour or sarcasm or irony here, it's just really really pure and lovely. Anyone who can insult an album with songs like this is really rather idiotic, and if you're reading this and don't have this record in your collection, you should really get it rather soon. It's available cheaply and you won't regret it. Last up is Sunrise, a rather celebratory and fun way to end the bands last album (i'm sure they must have realised this at the time), but always far better live than on the record. It was always a bit odd however that whenever I saw them play it it was as the sun was going down, and the song really made it feel like it should have come back up.
So there we have it. The end. Jarvis is preparing a solo album, although there's no clue as to when that will come out. Will Pulp ever record or tour again? It's possible, in fact quite possible. It was a friendly breakup, often spoken of as a hiatus, and I have a feeling that in 5 to 10 years we could probably see them at least doing some shows. I'll be waiting at the front of the ticket queue/line/internet ticket buying thingy for the first show, and hopefully I'll see some of you people reading there. Hope you've enjoyed this series of articles, I have, and it's been good to read all the comments. I expect i'll have random Pulp stuff up from time to time (there are some good radio sessions lying about). As for what's next regarding big things on this blog, i'm prepping a series on the greatest films about music/rock ever made, and will probably do a similar discography series to this one on one maybe Suede or Manic Street Preachers. Until then, have a good one!
You can get more info on We Love Life at Bar Italia or read some reviews through the links at Wikipedia.
Here's a few videos. I was sure there was a Sunrise video, but I was only able to find the ones for Trees and Bad Cover Version, as well as a few choice live vids:
The Night That Minnie Temperley Died (live in France 2001)
Trees (music video)
Bad Cover Version (music video)
Bad Cover Version (live in France 2001)
And here they are, the final few mp3s in the Pulp discography *sniffle*. Hope you like them.
Download: Pulp - Wickerman - MP3 5.71mb
Discography: (click to buy @ amazon.co.uk)
His 'N' Hers (1994)
Masters Of The Universe (1994)
Different Class (1995)
This Is Hardcore (1998)
We Love Life (2001)
Truth And Beauty