WOWEE ZOWEE (11)
March 14, 2018
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the subject of our favorite albums of the Nineties (1994–2003). A new installment in this series will appear each Wednesday during 2018.
DIFFERENT CLASS | PULP | 1995
Only in Britain could a band have a hit single about class anxiety. Pulp’s 1995 anthem ‘Common People’, directed against a trust-fund art student pretending to be poor, was the big cut from their album Different Class, reaching number two in the UK singles chart. They’d waited long enough for success; unlike their Britpop peers Blur, Oasis, Supergrass, and Elastica, Pulp had been knocking around since 1978, finally achieving a breakthrough in 1994 with their album His ’n’ Hers. If any band knew what it was like to experience life from the sidelines, to struggle for years without recognition, and without help from The Bank of Mum and Dad, it was Pulp.
Different Class is a record about class status, pent-up lust and frustrated hopes,. It’s also a collection of songs about the salves we apply to life’s disappointments — sex, drugs, comedy. Frontman Jarvis Cocker’s narrative miniatures are shot through with deadpan humour, mock-epic dramas in which he acts the role of righteous working class hero (‘Common People’), lonely misfit (’Mis-Shapes’, ‘I Spy’), drug casualty (‘Sorted for E’s & Whizz’), suburban romantic (‘Disco 2000’, ‘Something Changed’) and lecherous sex pest (‘Pencil Skirt’, ‘Underwear’). Musically, Different Class finds Pulp at their most gregarious and confident: Steve Mackey and Nick Banks’ rhythm section gives the songs a muscular disco stomp, richly coloured by Candida Boyle’s lush, kitsch synths. Their sound could be called ‘retro’, but only because the album’s melodies and harmonies evoke, in those of us of a certain age, half-remembered TV show themes or teenage embarrassments at the youth club disco that we’d rather forget.
The year Different Class came out, Pulp were booked as headliners for the Glastonbury Festival, replacing The Stone Roses who had cancelled at the final hour. The band ended their set with the crowd singing along to ‘Common People’; 20,000 people laughing in unison at the absurd social games people play at the expense of others in order to make themselves feel more important, more ‘authentic.’ Pulp’s great skill was to leverage wit, a knack for pithy social observation and their status as outsiders-made-good to make everyone feel welcome in their world, to embrace their inner misfit. As a message on the back of the album put it: ‘We don’t want no trouble, we just want the right to be different. That’s all.’
WOWEE ZOWEE: Stephanie Burt on UNISEX | Anindita Basu Sempere on UNDER THE PINK | Mark Kingwell on DUMMY | Bill Nericcio on AMOR PROHIBIDO | Sherri Wasserman on HIPS AND MAKERS | Mimi Lipson on THANK YOU | John Overholt on BEN FOLDS FIVE | Jordan Ellenberg on GET LOST | Chelsey Johnson on PERSONAL BEST | Marilyn Snell on MAXINQUAYE | Dan Fox on DIFFERENT CLASS | Devin McKinney on IF YOU’RE FEELING SINISTER | Alice Boone on MTV UNPLUGGED (ALICE IN CHAINS) | Rob Wringham on SPICE | Joe Alterio on BEATS, RHYMES AND LIFE | Jason Loeffler on SECOND TOUGHEST IN THE INFANTS | Rick Pinchera on EITHER/OR | Josh Glenn on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST | Jennifer Krasinski on SUPA DUPA FLY | Sara Ryan on DIG ME OUT | Luc Sante on MEZZANINE | Molly Wright Steenson on I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE | Franklin Bruno on ENGLAND MADE ME | Michael Campochiaro on IS THIS DESIRE? | Adrienne Crew on CALIFORNICATION | Drew Daniel on I SEE A DARKNESS | Veda Hille on THE SOFT BULLETIN | Vanessa Berry on TEENAGE SNUFF FILM | Tom Kipp on GET SKINTIGHT | David Hirmes on DOPETHRONE | John Hilgart on YORK BLVD. | Deborah Wassertzug on JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT | Adam McGovern on INVINCIBLE SUMMER | Brian Berger on TIRED SOUNDS OF… | Michael Grasso on MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN | Jen Collins on HURRAH | Flourish Klink on THE TEACHES OF PEACHES | Judith Zissman on TALLAHASSEE | Lauren Oliver on SOUND-DUST | Jason Cohen on IS THIS IT | Matthew De Abaitua on THE RAINBOW CHILDREN | Jenny Davidson on TIME (THE REVELATOR) | Crystal Durant on LIVE THROUGH THIS | Gordon Dahlquist on GARBAGE | Erin M. Routson on WASHING MACHINE | Carl Wilson on TEMPTING | Jessamyn West on ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS | Kaleb Horton on STREETCORE | Tom Nealon on BAZOOKA TOOTH | Erik Davis on DOPESMOKER | David Levine on FEVER TO TELL | Deb Chachra on MASS ROMANTIC.
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