PULP PIECE FOR BIG ISSUE (WHICH THEY DIDN'T USE BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE HAD
BAGSIED THEM ALREADY, NAMING NO NAMES, GORDON BURN)
The charts are full of crap. Even the target audience (teenies) realize
this. For me, this doesn't make all that much difference. I have a decent
record collection to hunker down with until things improve again. But there
is a particular segment of the pop-population for whom I feel terribly sorry.
These are the fourteen-year-old miserablists, the indie-kids stuck out in
some thug-infested village, with only their taped-off-the-radio cassette collection,
the local lending library and John Peel to help get them through.
When I was in this sorry state, I was lucky enough to have The Smiths. To
misquote Morrissey, they said something to me about my life. Not only that,
they gave me an ethic. A way of coping with life. It didnt matter that
I didnt have money, and that what I did have I spent on Smiths 12"
singles. The costume, props and locations I required to identify myself as
a Smiths' fan were the cheapest and easiest available: Oxfam granddad shirts,
Save the Children beads; The Complete Writings of Oscar Wilde (£3.99,
if I remember rightly); some gladioli; a dander down to the local cemetery.
Casting around for a group that might get the fourteen-year-old me though
the pre-university years in 2,000, I find the arena fairly empty. Radiohead
have the miserable angle covered but don't really show the way as far as dress
code goes. Plus, they sing mostly about the miseries of international rock
stardom. Nice to daydream about, but not really all that direct a point of
contact. There's Blur, who, most of the time, are too London-centric to speak
to the rainy provinces. Theres what I like to think of as the shittiest
single generation of bands ever (Skunk Anansie, Kula Shaker, Cast). These
may have waylaid some poor souls who happened to have their birthdays the
week these gits released their albums.
No, as far as I can see, only one band could have got through to me and got
me through: Pulp.
The ultimate outsiders (at least they were). Pulp realize how, for some people,
a band can be a life-support system. Morrissey used the image of a rubber
ring. Something to stop one sinking, drowning. Different Class is basically
a concept album about outsiderdom. It's also primer on how to survive being
If I were trudging round my local Arndale Centre, searching for kindred spirits,
and saw a Jarvis clone, I'd know I'd found someone who was prepared to admit
to reading books, enjoyed watching films with subtitles, and had difficulties
Plus, to identify myself as a Jarvis clone, I'd merely have to trog myself
along to the aforementioned Oxfam and Save the Children. A '70s wallpaper
pattern shirt, a corduroy jacket, some bri-Nylon slacks, a pair of brown-glass
Wayfarers - and I'd be away.
Now, however, Jarvis has moved on to a more solipsistic vibe. This is Hardcore,
while a greater record than Different Class, is in essence another rock-star
fuck-up album (see also The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street, Lou Reed
Street Hassle, Neil Young Tonight's the Night).
Although they may yet return to their people, Pulp have followed the prime
directive of pop art: cancel and move on.
The fact they are still active, and are making their back catalogue cheaply
available, is enough.
The imaginary fourteen-year-old miserablist me is more grateful to Pulp than
he could possibly say.