The show, which was broadcast live by BBC Radio One, was a little shaky in parts but the Bristol audience didn't let that bother them and they got crazy. Plenty [of] new songs made their concert debut, as did Candida's new technologically advanced Ensoniq keyboard.
The Complete Peel Sessions (compilation CD)
BBC Radio 1 - Sound City '95
There's a new spring in Pulp's stride. Maybe it's the afterglow of romping to victory in the Sound City pop quiz earlier today, but Jarvis Cocker's Mambo King swagger is more pronounced than usual. The Sheffield sex beasts have swapped their garish threads for more sober attire. Cocker looks more like Brett Anderson and less like a bewildered ostrich by the minute. Even all-time anthems to failure and ruin like 'Razzmatazz' and 'Babies' bristle with bullish self-confidence...
But it's the new stuff we came to hear, sneak previews of the next album. And top clobber it is, too. There's 'Pencil Skirt' and 'Underwear', both elegiac hymns of grown-up, dressed-up lust which are miles ahead of the comical sexual fumbling in previous Pulp epics, despite top lines like "I've kissed your mother twice and now I'm working on your dad."
More impressively, 'Monday Morning' is a jaunty bluebeat drama about the trials of living outside the mainstream while 'Mile End' marries nightmarish squatting anecdotes to an eccentric easy-listening collision of Dexy's Midnight Runners and Kurt Weill. Impressive because Jarvis seems to be leaving studied Alan Bennett nostalgia behind him: Pulp songs no longer revolve around messy couplings in threadbare parlours and hiding from the rough boys up the road. Their world widens by the week, culminating in triumphant set-closer 'Common People', their clearest stab yet at a full-throttle rock anthem...
They've got a bloody nerve, of course. Pulp are no more representatives of the common man than Blur or Suede, being bookish bohemian graduates from the arty side of the tracks. 'Common People' could easily sound trite and patronising, especially since it's hard to imagine a more uncommon figure in modern pop than Jarvis, a lofty Stephen Fry in a sea of Mr Beans. And yet Cocker plays it straight for once: no ironic get-out clause, no implied quotation marks, no kitsch safety net. Just a cool lyric, a strong universal theme and a roaringly great tune.
This is where Pulp seem to be heading, away from quirky self-consciousness towards confident, uncomplicated stardom. They are becoming a proper pop band instead of a sophisticated parody of one.
I need a kick. PULP wind up my week and set me jittering. They're all I want, Jarvis so calm until the music starts and then he's off, lost in the Travolta "Greased Lightning" arm movements, the Come Dancing "Latin Section" headjerks. Y'all know how good the old songs are; the four newies we hear tonight earmark the new LP as this year's instant solid gold pop classic. "Mile End" is all grim squats, grimy squalor, sitting around for hours staring at people you utterly despise in a room lit by the glow of their pipes, thinking about yer mam. "If They Could See Me Now" it ain't. It's the tiny variations, the small jutt of the chin, the insouciant tilt of the head, the sudden throw of the arm, the barely controlled smouldering horniness that makes Jarvis the most consummate showman I've ever seen. "Common People" is pretty much the perfect Pulp song, the vocalist as mere reporter, the song as speech, the story so horrible, yet He Still Wants To Shag Her, and the only thing he doesn't like is how it withers his dick when she says the chorus. Although he's starting to get off on it. Oh, God, it's horrendous. But that's the way Pulp work. Horror diffused, pissy times with the piss ripped out of them. I hear someone in the bar afterwards say "Victoria Wood", presumably as a pejorative. Watch any video of hers from the Eighties and behind all the surface comfort of observation and the middle-class niceness, there's something else at work. An absolute savage hatred of the bitter taste of defeat that this country serves up as its staple diet. And that's Pulp. Behind the glitter the knife. And that's why they're the best pop group we have right now. As success stories, as malcontents, as at last a band too grown up to whinge. And you can hear the words.
The week's over. Make mine an Alka-Seltzer. With a double Scotch in it. Cheers.