Pulp, Different Class

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 04.04.11 in Reviews

Different Class


1995′s Different Class was one of the peaks of the Britpop era and the high point of Pulp’s career, and its secret ingredient was right there in its title: What Jarvis Cocker added to his already fearsome critique of his ‘n’ hers desire was a laceratingly smart awareness of how class affects the equation. That comes out most of all in its masterpiece “Common People,” in which a rich girl tries to pick him up to fulfill her fantasy of how the other 99 percent lives, and he responds with a six-minute crescendo of fury. Still, it’s all over the album: Cocker’s vision of a unified underclass launching a cultural uprising in “Mis-Shapes,” his remembrance of a love-object’s childhood house being “Very small/ With wood-chip on the wall” in “Disco 2000,” the jealous narrator of “Underwear” quipping that “if fashion is your trade, then when you’re naked/ I guess you must be unemployed,” the language of drug-addled ravers in “Sorted for E’s and Wizz.” (In that context, even the lush strings in the self-referential, apparently earnest love song “Something Changed” and the reggae gallop that underscores the first half of “Monday Morning” serve as class signifiers.)

Elevating Pulp to a different class of their own

On top of all that, Different Class is Pulp’s most muscular rock record, thanks in part to new guitarist Mark Webber; it’s their only disc on which both Webber and Russell Senior play. Glorious enough to serve as a psych-up to a big night out and cruel enough that it could provide a soundtrack for the next morning’s walk of shame, the album elevated Pulp to a different class of their own in England — which, unsurprisingly, threw them for a loop. The 2012 bonus disc’s B-sides and demos are fascinating mis-shapes and mistakes, notably “We Can Dance Again” (a recast impression of Blondie’s “Atomic”) and a bizarre, somewhat off-key take on “Disco 2000″ bellowed by Nick Cave.