Friday, June 09, 2006

MP3: Pulp Discography - Part Ten: This Is Hardcore (1998)

Other parts in this series: One / Two / Three / Four / Five / Six / Seven / Eight / Nine / Eleven

After the massive success of Different Class, everyone knew that Pulp would really have to pull something pretty special out of the bag for the followup. Success had definitely taken it's toll, and This Is Hardcore turned out to be a far darker record than most of us expected. Like certain other important Britpop followups (Be Here Now, Blur, Urban Hymns) it's obviously influenced by drug overload, specifically cocaine, which Cocker had uncharacteristically taken to in light of the massive media focus put on him in the light of Different Class' success. It's easy to forget how he truly did seem to be on TV every five minutes, on every magazine cover, at every party at the Met Bar. This Is Hardcore is the big comedown, the big paranoid panic attack at the hotel room after the party. It's something of an artistic masterpiece, if a flawed one.

Released in March 1998, it reached number one on the UK charts, and spawned four top 40 hit singles. Due to it being far darker than it's predecessor, the general public didn't take to the album in quite the same way, but Pulp were still very much in the spotlight.

Opener The Fear sets things up perfectly, with possibly the best opening lyrics (well it has got a Paul Daniels reference after all) of any Pulp record: 'This is our "Music from A Bachelor's Den"/The sound of loneliness turned up to 10/A horror soundtrack from a stagnant waterbed/And it sounds just like this/This is the sound of someone losing the plot/Making out that they're OK when they're not/You're gonna like it - but not a lot.' Chris Thomas production is tremendous, very very rich and cinematic, and indeed he excels throughout the record. Jarvis' vocals are on top form, and the band are sounding just as if not more confident than ever before. Second track Dishes is a far more intimate track, setting up the listener for a far slower and thought out series of songs than the poppy song-cycle of the last record. Again the lyrics are noteworthy, featuring one of Jarvis' funniest and most touching lyrical metaphors. I think most of us English folk can relate to: 'I'd like to make this water wine/But it's impossible/I've got to get these dishes dry.' Luckily the album is oftened touched with moments of pathos and hope that bely the otherwise depressing subject matters. Thus the song ends with: 'I'm not worried that I will never touch the stars/'Cos stars belong up in heaven, And the earth is where we are, oh yeah...And aren't you happy just to be alive?/Anything's possible/You've got no cross to bear tonight.' The strings on this track, and especially this last part are just heartbreakingly good. Track three, Party Hard, was one of the singles, and is one of the album's more lightweight tracks. Luckily the Bowie-esque vocal and the great fuzzed up riff make it a good one, and the music video and Top Of The Pops performance featuring Jarvis' own troop of cheerleaders were a nice touch. Help The Aged was the album's first single, released in 1997, and reaching number 8 in the charts, which is a pretty good chart position considering it's basically about learning sexual tips from elderly people. The album's title track (and another single) follows, and what a song it is. One of the most cinematic of all Pulp songs, it's sad, funny, sleazy and depressing, and abso-bloody-lutely amazing. The video is also really something for the band to be proud of. All of the albums videos are good, but the drawn out film noir parody of the title track is just tremendous. It's also got a hilarious opening, with the unforgettable actor shouting 'I went to college once, but all they found were RATS IN MY HEAD!' Instantly quotable. TV Movie follows, and is another one of the tracks that I often forgot about. However when relistening to the record yesterday I noticed that I actually really love it. Again it's very spare and minimalist in parts, with very naked emotion, but also again another funny metaphor to set off the obviously emotive lyrics. It builds and builds and the ending is really something to behold.

A Little Soul, another single, follows. A story about how Jarvis' father disappeared when he was young, only to reappear in light of his new found fame, it's another cracker, and how someone on another site can suggest that its 'over-produced filler' I really don't know. That phrase could possibly be used for the next track, I'm A Man. It makes an obvious point about macho guys in a rather boring way, reminding me of some of the lesser tracks on His N Hers second side. I also used to find Seductive Barry, a monologue featuring guest vocals from Neneh Cherry, a bit of a bore, but now I rather like it. The production is very very dense and rich, and the tale of Barry White-esque sex just about works, although it's perhaps a little long, making the second side of the album seem quite long compared to the first. I used to really dislike a lot of this side, but now i'm beginning to like it more and more. Sylvia, in particular, is really quite charming, and seems like a far better version of some of those His N Hers tracks. Again it's both sad and uplifting, and far better than it's reputation suggests. However the next track, Glory Days seems like a waste of a track, as really it's just a retooled Common People with lyrics debunking the suggestion that the mid 90s were (quick, guess!) ...glory days. Some of the lyrics work, such as 'Oh, we were brought up on the Space Race/Now they expect you to clean toilets!/When you've seen how big the world is/Oh, how can you make do with this?', but overall, maybe a mistake. Album closer The Day After The Revolution however is quite stunning, and seems to get better every time I hear it. It's a real shame I didn't get to see it live, because I expect it would have been really great. It's quite a downer to end on, especially with the coda section repeating 'Bye Bye', and I honestly thought at the time that we wouldn't go another Pulp record.

Luckily, we did. But that's what I'll be talking about next time. The mp3s I've put up below are Dishes, TV Movie, Sylvia, and the exclusive extended mix of the title track that I posted a week or so ago. If you didn't get that remix, you really should, because it's stunning. You can get more info on This Is Hardcore at wikipedia or Bar Italia.

How about some videos? Youtube has a ton:

The Fear - Live on Jools Holland
The Fear - Live In France
Party Hard Video
Party Hard - TFI Friday
Party Hard - Top Of The Pops
Party Hard - Live on Mercury Music Prize Awards Show
Help The Aged Video
This Is Hardcore Video (uncut version)
This Is Hardcore - Live on Jools Holland
A Little Soul Video
A Little Soul - Live on Jo Whiley Show
A Little Soul - Live In France

That's all for now. The post is over. The album is over. The song is over. The typing is over. Bye Bye. Bye Bye.

Download: Pulp - Dishes - MP3 2.4mb

Download: Pulp - TV Movie - MP3 2.35mb
Download: Pulp - Sylvia - MP3 3.94mb
Download: Pulp - This Is Hardcore (Permanent Darkness Mix) - MP3 8.31mb

Discography: (click to buy @

It (1983)

Freaks (1986)

Separations (1992)

Intro (1993)

His 'N' Hers (1994)

Masters Of The Universe (1994)

Different Class (1995)

This Is Hardcore (1998)

We Love Life (2001)

Truth And Beauty


Ultimate Live


Blogger Tim Young said...

Another great Pulp post Jamie. I love the Help the Aged video and I sometimes show it in my video editing classes as an example of an excellent 'reveal'.

9:43 am, June 09, 2006  
Anonymous scot said...

Just wanted to say I'be been loving all your pulp posts. Thanks for all the album insight and great b-sides!

3:55 pm, June 09, 2006  
Blogger michael said...

an interesting theory i heard about this record was that jarvis was so paralyzed by thhe success of different class that he dilberately made a record that was inaccessible to the larger public....

4:27 am, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought of "Different Class" as the cocaine album, given it's quick turn-around time in the studio (for Pulp at least), the drowned out instruments and the arrogant/confident lyrics. (Not to mention coke was the drug of choice for hip Londoners in '95)

So "This is Hardcore" is the methedone record then. And We Love Life was the inevitable "off the sauce" record, and as boring as that is.

Too bad. I always thought Pulp were best when they were just smoking cigs and drinking cider.

10:02 pm, July 19, 2006  
Blogger Pete2ndBest said...

This is a great record, absolutely amazing!

Though it's a shame that Pulp didn't dare (or what?) to include the original version of Glory Days called Cocaine Socialism on the album. It's the same melody but with different lyrics criticizing the whole Cool Britannia / New Labour hype.

9:45 am, July 22, 2006  
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