Nineteen years ago, Sheffield’s Pulp came top of their class and were crowned the winners of the prestigious, sales-boosting Mercury Prize with their career-defining, chart-topping, charismatically-beautiful ‘Different Class’. Beating the likes of Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, and Black Grape, Pulp defined not only their career, but a genre and a decade.
Jarvis Cocker does in fifty minutes or so what music historians have been trying to do for years – commentate on the culture of a country lost in the remnants of the original rise of youth culture thirty years before it. Whether it’s Cocker’s analogy of attending a rave or the stark realisation that anyone who hasn’t lived it glamorises poverty to such an inordinately farcical extent that it’s somewhat attractive – ‘Different Class’ captures the essence of the 90’s in twelve tracks of twisting, turning, and trembling recollections of real life as seen through the eyes of Sheffield’s finest modern-day poet.
From the fast-paced opening commentary of ‘Mis-Shapes’ through to the hauntingly serious ‘Pencil Skirt’ to the sinisterly synthy attack of ‘I Spy’ to ‘Disco 2000’s’ electrifying, hair-raising riff that gets you dancing like you’re sorted for E’s and Wizz, the first half of ‘Different Class’ is one of the finest opening halves the 90’s ever saw and few bands have found the balance that binds this half, and the rest of the record in fact, together.
The second half of ‘Different Class’ is in a class of its own, as if it handed itself over to something entirely different. ‘Something Changed’ is certainly the school-disco ballad that is so typically Pulp its somewhat painful and yet it’s one of the sweetest songs to ever come from Jarvis Cocker considering his promiscuous history, with its subtly soft guitar work whisking your mind away to your thoughts. ‘Sorted For E’s and Wizz’ is a synth-led ode to the youth – or to the world Pulp were representing in 1995 – which is as real as it gets, as real as the words you’re reading right now.
Whilst ‘Common People’ is arguably their biggest hit to date thanks to its archetypical brit-pop blueprint, the album’s finest hour is ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.’ Perhaps one of the more controversial, black-sheep, dark-horse choices from the album, it’s one of the finest songs the band’s ever released. Creeping from the darkest depths of Jarvis Cocker’s mind via way of a very 80’s inspired synth-led guitar-fused vibe, it bubbles up and up and up into a chocolate truffle stuffed with creamy charisma and laced with the character that Pulp have built themselves on. If you’re lusting for the truffle, then you’ve been caught by the bug of the song – lust.
Whilst What’s The Story was one of the biggest Britpop bangers in history, Pulp were in a different class releasing an album that was far more sophisticated, and far more rooted in the underworld of the 1990’s youth culture revival.