Pulp, This is Hardcore

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 04.04.11 in Reviews

This Is Hardcore

Slithering and introspective

“I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials,” Jarvis Cocker drawls at the beginning of “The Dishes,” by way of response to being anointed as the savior of British rock. If Pulp had been a typical band, they’d have followed their commercial breakthrough by making a record along the lines of Different Class: playful, snarky, detached, poppy. But they’d never been a typical band, and following the departure of longtime guitarist Russell Senior, they made this slithering, introspective 1998 album, whose jokes are mostly at Cocker’s own expense when they’re not simply bitter about fame. Its single “Help the Aged” finds him playing a sleazy old man trying to inveigle an ingénue into the sack; “Party Hard” is a Bowie-ish rocker about partying too hard and its aftermath. The album’s centerpiece is its ingenious, relentlessly creepy title track, on which stuttering orchestral loops flicker across the mix like strobes, while Cocker describes an artist’s career in the spotlight as intimacy transformed into brightly lit pornography, passion stripped of meaning for its participants and then recharged with sick new meaning by voyeurs. (The “deluxe edition” is augmented with a set of B-sides and sketched-out demos from that era that are mostly broader, but not much less cutting.)