Pulp

Different Class (Island ’95) Rating: A
This band was around for quite some time (well over ten years) before finally making a splash, at least in the U.K., with their fourth album, His 'n' Hers (1994). In the U.S. this decidedly British band's profile is considerably lower, but this excellent subsequent album, the band’s masterpiece, was their most popular worldwide release, and for good reason as charismatic group leader Jarvis Cocker (also famous for bum rushing Michael Jackson at the British Music Awards) arguably pens the best set of lyrics by any British songwriter since Ray Davies was writing about waterloo sunsets and village greens. The revenge of the nerds album opener “Mis-Shapes” is a superb demonstration of the band’s propulsively danceable and catchy synth pop side, which reaches its apex on “Common People,” a flat out brilliant pop single (arguably the best of the decade) about a bored rich girl who want to slum it with the commoners. The song, which like "Mis-Shapes" features a great rhythmic surge, builds and builds as Cocker's disgust grows and grows (after all, "everybody hates a tourist”), with the end result being a song that's sad, funny, mean, and epic all at once. “Disco 2000,” another fantastic hit single and album high point, is an alternately romantic, sad, and hilarious (“the boys all loved you but I was a mess, I had to watch them try and get you undressed”) look at unrequited love. Elsewhere, songs such as “Pencil Skirt,” with its slinky Bowie-esque melody, “Underwear,” with its appealing keyboard-led melody, and the fascinatingly devious “I Spy,” which atmospherically brings to mind James Bond sountracks or maybe a more sinister Pet Shop Boys, all paint vivid portraits of disturbingly amoral characters and the circumstances that inevitably arise between untrustworthy lovers. “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” details how love can unexpectedly change everything, while fate plays a role in the strings-heavy ballad (and #10 U.K. hit) “Something Changed,” and “Live Bed Show,” another impressive ballad, provides a melancholic view of a faded romance. Meanwhile, “Sorted For E’s And Wizz,” another superlative, supremely melodic single, this one about a trip to a rave, “Monday Morning” (great line, one of many throughout the album: "why live in the world when you can live in your head?"), and “Bar Italia” (about the dreaded "morning after" a hedonistic night out clubbing) detail the alternately disorienting and mundane existences of lonely drifters with no direction who are looking for their next high; each song is elevated by Cocker’s typical lyrical precision. Granted, the spectacular singles tend to overshadow the generally merely very good album tracks, and sometimes the band's new wave-y music isn’t quite up to the impeccable standards set by Cocker's inspired lyrical portraits. However, the music here generally holds up its end of the bargain as well, resulting in an essential Britpop document that was one of the decade’s defining U.K. albums.

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