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His N’ Hers

September 2, 2010

If you’re not familiar with Pulp, they’re sort of like a hybrid of disco keyboards, feedback-laden britpop, and a dose of frontman Jarvis Cocker’s typical alternative stylings. Lyrically and vocally, he’s always been a brilliant band leader; I can’t spare this guy. He’s probably one of the coolest musicians/artists/auteurs out there, totally engrossed with the finesse of aesthetics and art in general. He’s big on the “common” man’s mode of thinking, always humble but radical enough to protest over Michael Jackson’s infamous “Christlike” performance at one show. Some people thought Cocker ought to be knighted for that one, but that’s another story altogether. He sort of reminds of Rivers Cuomo just a bit—if only because they both give off this sort of geeky yet completely smooth style. But, that’s where the similarities end. I don’t think it’s much of a contest when it comes to sheer originality and consistence.

Anyway, His N’ Hers historically comes roaring off as the breakthrough success of the band after two moderately selling yet fantastic albums and one earlier dud. Sonically, the album is a basketcase of whimsical yet bent-sinister songs, especially the opening track which begs for the car “to take a girl to the reservoir.” To do what!? Aside from the occasional double-meanings and bitter pills, the album really has a “loved and lost” feel to many of the tracks that suits Cocker’s wail perfectly. The guitars and the bass are fantastic and they mesh well with the extensive use of the keyboards—a staple in much of Pulp’s work. You get the feeling that many of these songs could be remixed really easy, not because of a simplicity in some places but because they’re just so catchy. And it’s hard to make something that’s both catchy yet dynamic enough so it doesn’t feel it can be easily duplicated.

I feel like this album has that distinct “90’s” glitz to it, if that makes sense. Back when this was released in ‘94, grunge was big in the US. It didn’t catch on in Britain, I think they were still going through the whole Oasis/Blur fiasco—and besides, I feel grunge was always something that was wholly American, belonging to Cobain, Weiland, Vedder, and Lanegan. They had britpop; we had grunge. I can recall Public Image Ltd.’s song “Seattle” which details the initial confusion they had, as well. I can’t really picture John Lydon getting on in Seattle, to be honest.

But in the midst of all that there was shit like Roxette and all those distinctly poppy groups who cut through the radio waves with this glittery sheen. Why did so many of those mid-card bands have to suck so badly? They could have been great. Not that I’m saying Pulp’s like a better version of a lame singles-based 90’s band; they’re pretty alternative with their fusion of social drama and sparkly beats. It just seems like they were the ones who should have been part of the focal middle ground between the sludge of 90’s grunge and the eccentric “I’m more English than you” battles.

Well, I guess since the US has R.E.M., my argument’s null and void. Which reminds me, I have to write something about them, but that’ll be another time.

So, long story short: Pulp’s one of the only really “pop” bands I admire, if only because they stray from the slow roll of glitz all the time and venture into new ways to get your blood pumping. If you need a starting point for expectations, His N’ Hers is an excellent jump-off and just a great album altogether if you’re seeking the true “alternative” to the Britpop stuff that was from that era. Interestingly enough, the band has had a history of their success stemming from a large following in the US, especially due in part to this certain album. If this album was any indication of new variety, a few years later their dark and spinning carousel entitled This Is Hardcore would really get the cogs working. But that, like so much else, is for another day.

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