Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pulp - Different Class (1995)

A superlative album for lovers of authentic Britpop !

Even though the English alternative Britpop band Pulp was around for over fifteen years when this hit album was released (in 1995 in England and 1996 in the United States and beyond), they never made much of a ripple outside of the United Kingdom, their home base. This Mercury prize winning, platinum ranked, fifth studio album Different Class, however, changed it all making them popular all over Europe, the US, Australia and even Japan marking a revival of sorts in the Britpop genre. NME magazine went as far as to rank it as one of the 500 Albums of all time, a distinction it still holds at number 6. 

The success of Different Class is understandable. This album does have a different flavour compared to all their previous releases and also the other brit albums of those years. A significant mention is that Different Class has a more potent lyrical content than any brit album of the 90s, with vocalist Jarvis Cocker's songs about longing, contempt and jealousy bringing to mind a younger Leonard Cohen. 

On the opening track, "Mis-Shapes," Cocker declares war on the filthy-rich upper class ("We'll use the one thing we've got more of -- that's our minds"). Over the course of Different Class, Cocker and Pulp put their minds where their mouths are. On "Common People," Cocker plays a poor man approached by a rich young girl who tells him, "I want to live like common people." The man gives in at first, but then tells the girl that she will never be common because, "when you're laid in bed at night watching roaches climb the wall/ if you called your dad he could stop it all." In the end, the man understands the girl's wish to be a commoner ("You are amazed that they exist and they burn so bright whilst you can only wonder why"). 

On "I Spy," Cocker plays the part of an adulterer ("I've been sleeping with your wife for the past 16 weeks/ smoking your cigarettes/ drinking your brandy/ messing up the bed that you chose together"). The reason for the man's interest in the affair isn't love or sex, but revenge. He even hopes to get caught in the act, just to ruin the husband's life. 

Next, "Disco 2000" tackles the subject of heartfelt longing as well as any song ever has. On this track, Cocker tells the tale of two children born the same day: the boy grows up to be a misfit and the girl becomes Ms. Popular. The misfit describes his longing for the girl and the pain he felt as a teenager watching "others try and get you undressed. Different Class reads like a novel, with the songs written here about so far only bringing you up to the fifth track! You may consider some of the music is average 90s Brit-pop material, but Cocker's lyrics lift every song up to the next level. 

When the music is as on target as the lyrics, such as on "Disco 2000" and "Common People," Pulp strikes a deep nerve. With this album, Jarvis Cocker and Pulp make an album that is truly in a class by itself, especially if you are a lover of authentic British britpop/britrock!


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