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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1995 | Island

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Mercury Prize Winner
Lodged somewhere between the The Kinks’ quintessentially British songs, the dandyism of the early Roxy Music years (the For Your Pleasure period) and Bowie’s exuberance, Pulp brought their own personal touch to 90's Britpop. Jarvis Cocker's band dared to try it all, from disco pop, sixties, shoegaze, romantic and downright mischievous music. Crooning like an offbeat Scott Walker or transforming into a crazy Bob Geldof (from the Boomtown Rats period), Pulp's brain caresses the words of his impudent lyrics and drags himself into the simply perfect melodies. Such is the case on this eclectic fifth album, an impeccable reflection of this kaleidoscope on which the group from Sheffield touches on anything and everything, and especially on the sublime with Common People, an ironic masterpiece... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2006 | Island

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Lodged somewhere between the The Kinks’ quintessentially British songs, the dandyism of the early Roxy Music years (the For Your Pleasure period) and Bowie’s exuberance, Pulp brought their own personal touch to 90's Britpop. Jarvis Cocker's band dared to try it all, from disco pop, sixties, shoegaze, romantic and downright mischievous music. Crooning like an offbeat Scott Walker or transforming into a crazy Bob Geldof (from the Boomtown Rats period), Pulp's brain caresses the words of his impudent lyrics and drags himself into the simply perfect melodies. Such is the case on this eclectic fifth album, an impeccable reflection of this kaleidoscope on which the group from Sheffield touches on anything and everything, and especially on the sublime with Common People, an ironic masterpiece... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions Mercury Prize Selection
Pulp had been kicking around since 1981, but for all intents and purposes, their 1994 major-label debut, His 'n' Hers is their de facto debut: the album that established their musical and lyrical obsessions and, in turn, the album where the world at large became acquainted with their glassy, tightly wound synth pop and lead singer Jarvis Cocker's impeccably barbed wit. This was a sound that was carefully thought out, pieced together from old glam and post-punk records, assembled in so it had the immediacy (and hooks) of pop balanced by an artful obsession with moody, dark textures. It was a sound that perfectly fit the subject at hand: it was filled with contradictions -- it was sensual yet intellectual, cheap yet sophisticated, retro yet modern -- with each seeming paradox giving the music weight instead of weighing it down. Given Pulp's predilection for crawling mood pieces -- such effective set pieces as the tense "Acrylic Afternoons," or the closing "David's Last Summer" -- and their studied detachment, it might easy to over-intellectualize the band, particularly in these early days before they reached stardom, but for all of the chilliness of the old analog keyboards and the conscious geek stance of Cocker, this isn't music that aims for the head: its target is the gut and groin, and His 'n' Hers has an immediacy that's apparent as soon as "Joyriders" kicks the album into gear with its crashing guitars. It establishes Pulp not just as a pop band that will rock; it establishes an air of menace that hangs over this album like a talisman. As joyous as certain elements of the music are -- and there isn't just joy but transcendence here, on the fuzz guitars that power the chorus of "Lipgloss," or the dramatic release at the climax of "Babies" -- this isn't light, fizzy music, no matter how the album glistens on its waves of cold synths and echoed guitars, no matter how much sex drives the music here. Cocker doesn't tell tales of conquests: he tells tales of sexual obsession and betrayal, where the seemingly nostalgic question "Do You Remember the First Time?" is answered with the reply, "I can't remember a worst time." On earlier Pulp albums he explored similar stories of alienation, but on His 'n' Hers everything clicks: his lyrics are scalpel sharp, whether he's essaying pathos, passion, or wit, and his band -- driven by the rock-solid drummer Nick Banks and bassist Steve Mackey, along with the arty stylings of keyboardist Candida Doyle and violinist/guitarist Russell Senior -- gives this muscle and blood beneath its stylish exterior. The years etching out Joy Division-inspired goth twaddle in the mid-'80s pay off on the tense, dramatic epics that punctuate the glammy pop of the singles "Lipgloss," "Babies," and "Do You Remember the First Time?" And those years of struggle pay off in other ways too, particularly in Cocker's carefully rendered observations of life on the fringes of Sheffield, where desperation, sex, and crime are always just a kiss away, and Pulp vividly evokes this world with a startling lack of romanticism but an appropriate amount of drama and a surplus of flair. It's that sense of style coupled with their gut-level immediacy that gives His 'n' Hers its lasting power: this was Pulp's shot at the big time and they followed through with a record that so perfectly captured what they were and what they wanted to be, it retains its immediacy years later. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1994 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Mercury Prize Selection
Pulp had been kicking around since 1981, but for all intents and purposes, their 1994 major-label debut, His 'n' Hers is their de facto debut: the album that established their musical and lyrical obsessions and, in turn, the album where the world at large became acquainted with their glassy, tightly wound synth pop and lead singer Jarvis Cocker's impeccably barbed wit. This was a sound that was carefully thought out, pieced together from old glam and post-punk records, assembled in so it had the immediacy (and hooks) of pop balanced by an artful obsession with moody, dark textures. It was a sound that perfectly fit the subject at hand: it was filled with contradictions -- it was sensual yet intellectual, cheap yet sophisticated, retro yet modern -- with each seeming paradox giving the music weight instead of weighing it down. Given Pulp's predilection for crawling mood pieces -- such effective set pieces as the tense "Acrylic Afternoons," or the closing "David's Last Summer" -- and their studied detachment, it might easy to over-intellectualize the band, particularly in these early days before they reached stardom, but for all of the chilliness of the old analog keyboards and the conscious geek stance of Cocker, this isn't music that aims for the head: its target is the gut and groin, and His 'n' Hers has an immediacy that's apparent as soon as "Joyriders" kicks the album into gear with its crashing guitars. It establishes Pulp not just as a pop band that will rock; it establishes an air of menace that hangs over this album like a talisman. As joyous as certain elements of the music are -- and there isn't just joy but transcendence here, on the fuzz guitars that power the chorus of "Lipgloss," or the dramatic release at the climax of "Babies" -- this isn't light, fizzy music, no matter how the album glistens on its waves of cold synths and echoed guitars, no matter how much sex drives the music here. Cocker doesn't tell tales of conquests: he tells tales of sexual obsession and betrayal, where the seemingly nostalgic question "Do You Remember the First Time?" is answered with the reply, "I can't remember a worst time." On earlier Pulp albums he explored similar stories of alienation, but on His 'n' Hers everything clicks: his lyrics are scalpel sharp, whether he's essaying pathos, passion, or wit, and his band -- driven by the rock-solid drummer Nick Banks and bassist Steve Mackey, along with the arty stylings of keyboardist Candida Doyle and violinist/guitarist Russell Senior -- gives this muscle and blood beneath its stylish exterior. The years etching out Joy Division-inspired goth twaddle in the mid-'80s pay off on the tense, dramatic epics that punctuate the glammy pop of the singles "Lipgloss," "Babies," and "Do You Remember the First Time?" And those years of struggle pay off in other ways too, particularly in Cocker's carefully rendered observations of life on the fringes of Sheffield, where desperation, sex, and crime are always just a kiss away, and Pulp vividly evokes this world with a startling lack of romanticism but an appropriate amount of drama and a surplus of flair. It's that sense of style coupled with their gut-level immediacy that gives His 'n' Hers its lasting power: this was Pulp's shot at the big time and they followed through with a record that so perfectly captured what they were and what they wanted to be, it retains its immediacy years later. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Mercury Prize Selection
"This is the sound of someone losing the plot/you're gonna like it, but not a lot." So says Jarvis Cocker on "The Fear," the opening track on This Is Hardcore, the ambitious follow-up to Pulp's breakthrough Different Class, thereby providing his own review for the album. Cocker doesn't quite lose the plot on This Is Hardcore, but the ominous, claustrophobic "The Fear" makes it clear that this is a different band, one that no longer has anthems like "Common People" in mind. The shift in direction shouldn't come as a surprise -- Pulp was always an arty band -- but even the catchiest numbers are shrouded in darkness. This Is Hardcore is haunted by disappointments and fear -- by the realization that what you dreamed of may not be what you really wanted. Nowhere is this better heard than on "This Is Hardcore," where drum loops, lounge piano, cinematic strings, and a sharp lyric create a frightening monument to weary decadence. It's the centerpiece of the album, and the best moments follow its tone. Some, like "The Fear," "Seductive Barry," and "Help the Aged," wear their fear on their sleeves, some cloak it in Bowie-esque dance grooves ("Party Hard") or in hushed, resigned tones ("Dishes"). A few others, such as the scathing "I'm a Man" or "A Little Soul," have a similar vibe without being explicitly dark. Instead of delivering an entirely bleak album, Pulp raise the curtain somewhat on the last three songs, but the attempts at redemption -- "Sylvia," "Glory Days," "The Day After the Revolution" -- don't feel as natural as everything that precedes them. It's enough to keep the album from being a masterpiece, but it's hardly enough to prevent it from being an artistic triumph. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 22, 2001 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

It was clear that This Is Hardcore was a difficult, turbulent experience for Pulp -- it was such a troubled-sounding record that it was hard to tell where they would go next. Apparently that was as true for the band as it was for the listeners, since Pulp spent over three years preparing an album, cutting nearly a full record with longtime producer Chris Thomas before scrapping it all and entering the studio with cult hero (and Jarvis Cocker inspiration) Scott Walker. The pairing was intriguing but problematic, since Walker is not known as a producer and his recent recordings, such as Tilt and Pola X, were as inscrutable as Cocker was lucidly literate. Miraculously, the pairing resulted in the vibrant, reaffirming reinvention of We Love Life, an album that hints at music from Pulp's distant past (it's much closer to It than anything they've done since, though it has elements of the epics scattered through His 'n' Hers) while finding a new voice for the band and Jarvis as a lyricist. It's easy to see that this is a mature album, but that suggests a studied self-consciousness and safe, coffee-table artiness. This is maturation in a different sense -- Cocker has lived through dark times, as was evident in This Is Hardcore, and still sees difficulty in the present and past (the haunting centerpiece of "Wickerman"), but here he embraces life, even seeing his place in the grand scheme of things. Previously, Pulp's sleek music had been as darkly romantic as a drunken late night in a metropolis, and Cocker's lyrics were wittily urbane, embracing and mocking the idiosyncrasies of contemporary life, but here the music is considerably more organic -- Candida Doyle's synth, a former signature, can barely be heard -- and Cocker's elaborately detailed lyrics are trim and focused, filled with nature imagery. This is hardly a pastoral album, though, even with the occasional string section and acoustic guitars, nor does this sound like Pulp's version of a Scott Walker album. Instead, this is an emotional and musical breakthrough, finding the band leaping beyond the claustrophobic Hardcore and consolidating their previous obsessions, creating a textured, reflective record that in its own measured way is as impassioned as Different Class -- it's just that Jarvis is railing against the impulses within himself, and he winds up finding a way out. As such, We Love Life is warm and embracing, even when it delves into darkness, never nearly as despairing as Hardcore, and nearly as affirming as Different Class. And if that record was the mis-shaped misfit finally letting the world know that he was special, this is that same misfit turning inward, realizing that the world itself is special. Not the kind of thing that results in a massive hit, but it's tremendously rewarding all the same. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 30, 1998 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

"This is the sound of someone losing the plot/you're gonna like it, but not a lot." So says Jarvis Cocker on "The Fear," the opening track on This Is Hardcore, the ambitious follow-up to Pulp's breakthrough Different Class, thereby providing his own review for the album. Cocker doesn't quite lose the plot on This Is Hardcore, but the ominous, claustrophobic "The Fear" makes it clear that this is a different band, one that no longer has anthems like "Common People" in mind. The shift in direction shouldn't come as a surprise -- Pulp was always an arty band -- but even the catchiest numbers are shrouded in darkness. This Is Hardcore is haunted by disappointments and fear -- by the realization that what you dreamed of may not be what you really wanted. Nowhere is this better heard than on "This Is Hardcore," where drum loops, lounge piano, cinematic strings, and a sharp lyric create a frightening monument to weary decadence. It's the centerpiece of the album, and the best moments follow its tone. Some, like "The Fear," "Seductive Barry," and "Help the Aged," wear their fear on their sleeves, some cloak it in Bowie-esque dance grooves ("Party Hard") or in hushed, resigned tones ("Dishes"). A few others, such as the scathing "I'm a Man" or "A Little Soul," have a similar vibe without being explicitly dark. Instead of delivering an entirely bleak album, Pulp raise the curtain somewhat on the last three songs, but the attempts at redemption -- "Sylvia," "Glory Days," "The Day After the Revolution" -- don't feel as natural as everything that precedes them. It's enough to keep the album from being a masterpiece, but it's hardly enough to prevent it from being an artistic triumph. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

More than any other band of the '90s, Pulp were quintessentially British -- not the same thing as being quintessentially Britpop, mind you, which is an entirely different thing. Though it was frequently fey, at least when Blur were concerned, Britpop was for the lager-loving lads, a patriotic celebration of the country, particularly its pop culture heritage. Pulp shared many of those same roots as their peers, plus they were pop obsessives, capturing the intuitive, subliminal things that separated the dedicated from the poseurs. They were the misshapes, misfits -- the art-loving geeks grown beautiful who had a brief moment in the sun before they returned to the outskirts of pop life. To some observers, that might have looked like they were dropping the ball, but turning to the murky darkness of This Is Hardcore after the shining Different Class was artier and more natural than Blur's similar turn with 13, and they made better singles when they returned to arty darkness, too, as Hits, a glorious recap of their stint at Island in the '90s, illustrates. Pulp, of course, had been around long before they moved to Island, but it wasn't until the early '90s that they truly came into their own, starting with Pulpintro EP and the sublime "Babies" single. From there, they produced four terrific albums, including one stone masterpiece (1995's Different Class which, years later, stands alongside Parklife as the greatest testament of Britpop), the near-perfect His 'n' Hers, the fascinating decadence of This Is Hardcore, and the gorgeous Scott Walker-produced We Love Life. Each album has a different character, a different feel, but throughout it all, Pulp turned out tremendous singles that functioned within the context of the album and as their own entity because they were vividly imagined and sharply written, which may be why they hold together so well as their own album. Apart from the image-defining "Mis-Shapes," there's nothing missing from Hits, and while these are songs identified with their time, they transcend it, with even the new contribution, "Last Day of the Miners' Strike," holding its own on a collection of singles as strong as anything in '90s pop music. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 20, 2012 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 20, 2012 | Fire Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

More than any other band of the '90s, Pulp were quintessentially British -- not the same thing as being quintessentially Britpop, mind you, which is an entirely different thing. Though it was frequently fey, at least when Blur were concerned, Britpop was for the lager-loving lads, a patriotic celebration of the country, particularly its pop culture heritage. Pulp shared many of those same roots as their peers, plus they were pop obsessives, capturing the intuitive, subliminal things that separated the dedicated from the poseurs. They were the misshapes, misfits -- the art-loving geeks grown beautiful who had a brief moment in the sun before they returned to the outskirts of pop life. To some observers, that might have looked like they were dropping the ball, but turning to the murky darkness of This Is Hardcore after the shining Different Class was artier and more natural than Blur's similar turn with 13, and they made better singles when they returned to arty darkness, too, as Hits, a glorious recap of their stint at Island in the '90s, illustrates. Pulp, of course, had been around long before they moved to Island, but it wasn't until the early '90s that they truly came into their own, starting with Pulpintro EP and the sublime "Babies" single. From there, they produced four terrific albums, including one stone masterpiece (1995's Different Class which, years later, stands alongside Parklife as the greatest testament of Britpop), the near-perfect His 'n' Hers, the fascinating decadence of This Is Hardcore, and the gorgeous Scott Walker-produced We Love Life. Each album has a different character, a different feel, but throughout it all, Pulp turned out tremendous singles that functioned within the context of the album and as their own entity because they were vividly imagined and sharply written, which may be why they hold together so well as their own album. Apart from the image-defining "Mis-Shapes," there's nothing missing from Hits, and while these are songs identified with their time, they transcend it, with even the new contribution, "Last Day of the Miners' Strike," holding its own on a collection of singles as strong as anything in '90s pop music. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1993 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

All of the singles Pulp recorded for Gift Records, including both the A- and B-sides, are collected on Pulpintro -- The Gift Recordings. From the opening track, "Space," it's clear that Pulp's confidence and talents have grown considerably, even from the relatively accomplished Separations. Now, the band has created a signature sound that relies heavily on cheap, synthesized sounds as well as tight pop melodies and a theatrical attack that approximates the art rock of Roxy Music and David Bowie. However, Pulp is too concerned with earthly pleasures to really recall Roxy or Bowie. Furthermore, the band's knack for creating terrific pop singles prevents them from being too pretentious, as the singles "O.U.," "Razzamatazz," and, particularly, "Babies" illustrate. And even though it's just a collection of singles, Pulpintro holds together as well as Separations, if not better. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 28, 2013 | Rough Trade

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Pop - Released October 22, 2001 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

It was clear that This Is Hardcore was a difficult, turbulent experience for Pulp -- it was such a troubled-sounding record that it was hard to tell where they would go next. Apparently that was as true for the band as it was for the listeners, since Pulp spent over three years preparing an album, cutting nearly a full record with longtime producer Chris Thomas before scrapping it all and entering the studio with cult hero (and Jarvis Cocker inspiration) Scott Walker. The pairing was intriguing but problematic, since Walker is not known as a producer and his recent recordings, such as Tilt and Pola X, were as inscrutable as Cocker was lucidly literate. Miraculously, the pairing resulted in the vibrant, reaffirming reinvention of We Love Life, an album that hints at music from Pulp's distant past (it's much closer to It than anything they've done since, though it has elements of the epics scattered through His 'n' Hers) while finding a new voice for the band and Jarvis as a lyricist. It's easy to see that this is a mature album, but that suggests a studied self-consciousness and safe, coffee-table artiness. This is maturation in a different sense -- Cocker has lived through dark times, as was evident in This Is Hardcore, and still sees difficulty in the present and past (the haunting centerpiece of "Wickerman"), but here he embraces life, even seeing his place in the grand scheme of things. Previously, Pulp's sleek music had been as darkly romantic as a drunken late night in a metropolis, and Cocker's lyrics were wittily urbane, embracing and mocking the idiosyncrasies of contemporary life, but here the music is considerably more organic -- Candida Doyle's synth, a former signature, can barely be heard -- and Cocker's elaborately detailed lyrics are trim and focused, filled with nature imagery. This is hardly a pastoral album, though, even with the occasional string section and acoustic guitars, nor does this sound like Pulp's version of a Scott Walker album. Instead, this is an emotional and musical breakthrough, finding the band leaping beyond the claustrophobic Hardcore and consolidating their previous obsessions, creating a textured, reflective record that in its own measured way is as impassioned as Different Class -- it's just that Jarvis is railing against the impulses within himself, and he winds up finding a way out. As such, We Love Life is warm and embracing, even when it delves into darkness, never nearly as despairing as Hardcore, and nearly as affirming as Different Class. And if that record was the mis-shaped misfit finally letting the world know that he was special, this is that same misfit turning inward, realizing that the world itself is special. Not the kind of thing that results in a massive hit, but it's tremendously rewarding all the same. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 1, 1987 | Fire Records

Freaks is so different than It that it nearly sounds like a different band. Granted, that is largely due to the fact that Pulp was a different band, apart from lead vocalist Jarvis Cocker. After the unsuccessful showing of It, the band broke up, leaving Cocker to assemble a new lineup. The most significant new member was Russell Senior, who brought a fascination with art, noise, and neo-gothic overtones to the band. But that change in sound isn't the only reason why Freaks is the darkest record Pulp ever made, or ever will make. Cocker's lyrics are neurotically gloomy and paranoid, obsessed with failures and outcasts. While this would become a signature theme for Pulp's songs, Cocker's outlook on Freaks is oppressively bleak -- he finds no future for the mis-shapes and misfits in his songs. Not only are the songs hopeless, so is the production. The very sound of Freaks is muddy and impenetrable, making it difficult to find the occasional rewarding moment on the album, such as "Master of the Universe," "They Suffocate at Night," or Senior's "Anorexic Beauty." © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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It

Rock - Released February 20, 2012 | Fire Records

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Pop - Released June 3, 1996 | Fire Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1992 | Fire Records

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It

Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1983 | Fire Records

It is a gentle, mainly acoustic album that gives very few signs to the musical directions Pulp would later pursue. Lacking any hint of synthesizers or dance music, the album occasionally touches on the majestic, theatrical ballads of Scott Walker, as well as the stark, folky song poems of Leonard Cohen. However, at this stage, Jarvis Cocker is hardly the lyrical equivalent of either songwriter, and his singing is endearingly awkward -- occasionally he misses notes, and he misses the tune every once in a while. Nevertheless, there are tunes throughout the album, whether it's the light opening single "My Lighthouse" or the silly, music hall stomp of "Love Love." It isn't a great album, but it has an effortless, amateurish charm that makes up for the unformed songs and the band's rudimentary musical skills. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 27, 2015 | Fire Records

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Pulp in the magazine