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Pulp – Different Class (1995)

A couple of weeks ago a song popped up in a random playlist on Spotify, and I really enjoyed it. It sounded vaguely familiar, and I knew I had heard of the song and the probably the artist as well, but for the life of me I couldn’t place it.

When I flipped my phone over to see what was streaming, it turned out to be Common People by Pulp. Well… of course I had heard of Pulp, and I knew of Common People, though not well enough to hum it. Somehow it had escaped my attention, or hadn’t held my interest, when it was first released.

When the album originally came out, back in 1995, I was working in a record shop, so Pulp was on my radar, but somehow they never managed to really grab my attention. I can’t think of what I was into at the time, but it definitely wasn’t what the press had labelled as Brit Pop. I wasn’t into grunge either, so I honestly can’t tell you what the hell had grabbed my attention. I’m sure I was obsessed with it, but (*shrug*) I have no idea what it was. At one point I ended up with a promo copy of PulpHis’N’Hers,”, which came out a year earlier than “Different Class”, but I can’t say I was particularly impressed with it. I may have listened to it half-heartedly once or twice, so I likely dismissed “Different Class” out of hand when it was released, which I can see now was a real shame because it’s a fantastic album! (I decided to give His’N’Hers another listen now that I’ve finally discovered “Different Class” and I really enjoyed it as well! I’ve added it to my vinyl wish list).

All this to say, believe it or not, I do not know much about the music by any of the following bands: Sleeper, Blur, The Verve, Teenage Fanclub, The Boo Radleys, Echobelly, Menswear or Supergrass, all of whom had hugely popular albums that dominated the sound coming out of England in 1995. I own exactly one Oasis album, I own Elastica‘s self-titled LP, I have a couple of Radiohead albums which I discovered years after they were released. I also own The Boo RadleysWake Up!” (which I didn’t like, frankly) but I have nothing by the other supposed “super-bands” of the year. Somehow, 1995 was the year that never happened for me, haha!

It was, therefore, a surprise to hear Pulp‘s Common People pop up in my headphones and to find myself really enjoying it. And of course, in a strange strange turn of synchronicity, a friend of mine (hello Ryan) happened to mention Pulp‘s album “Different Class” album to me in a chat later that week. Being the music snob that I am, once I’ve dismissed something I rarely return to it, so I told him that I didn’t like the album and wasn’t particularly interested in it. He insisted that I needed to give it a fair shot and, because I respect his musical opinion (despite us having really different musical tastes), I queued it up on Spotify and listened to the album properly for the first time.

Lucky for me that I did! It turned out to be an hour well spent. As you probably know by now, I am not much of a lyrics person, I tend to ignore lyrics and focus more on rhythm and melody, but some of the lyrics managed to penetrate my thick skull and I found myself smiling.

A quick bit of research online revealed that the Island Records 180gr UK pressing from 2016 was considered to be one of the better pressings of the album, so this was the one I sought out (I found it, brand new, on eBay for under $20). The consensus seemed to be that there were no “great” pressings of the album because with 12 songs spread out over a single disc, it gives the grooves very little breathing space (the music was pressed rather quietly with shallower grooves, which allows for more music to be pressed on a single side of an album). The album actually clocks in at nearly 52 minutes, which would usually be pressed as a double LP, so I was surprised that Island Records decided to go with a single disc. Nevertheless, the vinyl itself was said to be super quiet and the mastering first class, so I bought it with fingers crossed. After giving the album a spin (and turning the volume up) I wholeheartedly agree. This pressing sounds GREAT! The vinyl itself is DEAD quiet, so the music comes through nice and clear, even though you will have to turn the volume up because it is pressed so quietly..

I had such a good time listening to this album! Despite the upbeat music and cheery feeling of the majority of these songs, there is something dark and borderline sleazy that lurks within the lyrics, which appealed to my twisted sense of humour. It took me a while, but I finally “get it”. I can understand why this album won the Mercury Prize for 1995.

A1 – Opening track Mis-Shapes has a funny old-timey Broadway musical vibe to it (especially in the chorus) but it still manages to feel like 90s pop rock in its execution. It really feels like the opening number in the peep show that Pulp is about to present; a sneak peek into the lives of a different class of people… the common people… 

A2 – Pencil Skirt is a great sexy, flirty track. It’s delightfully subversive lyrically and musically. It’s some people’s favourite song on the album, though I found it just “ok”.

A3 – Common People, of course, is just fantastic. The music itself is an ear-worm waiting for an ear-hole to crawl into, and the lyrics are just brutal.

A4 – I Spy begins like a theme from a sweeping film from the 60s. In my mind’s eye, I can picture the panoramic view of a great empty landscape, snowy mountains rising majestically to the sky. Our hero stands on the plains, he has a monumental trek ahead of him… and then the music kicks in and we’re on a train, riding towards those distant lands. The whole song feels like something grand and cinematic. It’s spectacular!

A5 – Disco 2000 starts out sounding very much like Gloria by Laura Branigan. (which was also a hit for the original artist, Umberto Tozzi). Don’t believe me? Scroll down to the bottom of this post top watch the videos! HAHA! It also manages to channel something akin to Blondie, and yet it sounds thoroughly of it’s time. It takes a very Eurodisco riff and turns it into a great rocking number. Brilliant track with a fun music video.

A6 – Live Bed Show is another lush cinematic track that slowly builds to its… er… climax (odd choice of words?). Live Bed Show is essentially a vignette about a failed relationship, beautifully told through the history of the bed. We hear about how the bed was bought for 10 pounds down the road and used to make a lot of noise at night. Now though, were it to suddenly be live on television every night, nobody would watch because it’s just a sad empty bed. Gorgeous melody and beautifully crafted lyrics.

B1 – Something Changed is a beautiful piece of romantic philosophizing. What if I hadn’t met you? What if you had arrived 5 minutes later? What if I’d gone to see a film instead of coming here? The “what ifs” pile up upon each other until you can almost taste his awe of her. But, as she tells the protagonist, “Stop asking questions that don’t matter anyway”.

B2 – Sorted For E’s & Wizz is a bit of an anthem for the kids heading out to a rave. Everything is fantastic when you’re sorted for E’s & Wizz; not so much when you come down the next day.

B3 – F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. is another song that, like Something Changed questions how love has arrived and where did it come from. And what do we do with it once we have it? Alternately describing it as that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you’re about to fall off a roof, and reminding us all that its far more overwhelmingly primal than chocolate and flowers, the music rises and falls like the ragged breath of someone realizing they’re in love for the first time. This song is unbelievably good. The fear and uncertainty is palpable in the quiet bits of the song, but when the music kicks in you can feel the inescapable, helpless desire. You may have to sit down and catch your breath.

B4 – Underwear feels like a continuation of the story begun in F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.. You can practically feel him dying inside as he realizes that she’ll never be his. She’s giving herself to someone she doesn’t even love, and the singer would die to be him.

B5 – Monday Morning has an awesome dirty guitar riff, chugging along to a bit of cha-cha. Sounds weird, but it really works. Only the ultra rich can’t relate to the horrors of Monday Morning.

B6 – Bar Italia is the curtain call on Pulp’s horror show about love and live for the lower class. Two broken people stumbling their way towards a cup of coffee at the end of a night out clubbing, knowing that morning is approaching fast and they can’t go home yet because it “hasn’t worn off yet”.

There isn’t a single weak track on the album. There also isn’t a single slow song on the album, which may be the other reason I enjoyed it so much. 🙂 This album was a fantastic discovery for me. (seriously: thanks for insisting, Ryan!) It really should be anyone’s collection.

Here is a playlist if you don’t believe me. I’ve added a few standout tracks from His’N’Hers, as well as a couple of cool non-album tracks.

PS: If you enjoy what you heard, here is an FYI. I’ve already told you which edition of Different Class is the best (Island Records UK, 180gr, 2016), but if you decide to also seek out His’N’Hers on vinyl, carefully check then playlist before purchasing. Surprisingly, the cheap and easy-to-find single LP editions don’t include the fantastic track “Babies”. As far as I have been able to ascertain, only double LP editions include it. There is a so-called “deluxe” 25th anniversary edition on Island Records (2019) which includes Babies, and spreads the entire album across 4 sides of vinyl with only 2 or 3 tracks per side… which is a pain in the ass. HOWEVER… There is an amazing edition from Music On Vinyl (MOVLP663, 2012) that is far more “deluxe” than the Island Records offering. It spreads the whole album across 1 side of vinyl with similar sonic results to the above mentioned Different Class, and edition includes not only Babies, but also a plethora of B-sides and other non-album tracks on a full-to-the-brim second slab of vinyl. 13 bonus tracks make up the second LP. The sound quality on both of the Island Records and the Music On Vinyl reissues is considered to be above par, but there is a bit of price difference, and the more recent Island Records release will be more easy to find. It will be up to you to decide which one suits you. Happy hunting!

What do you think? Had you heard of Pulp before? Are you a fan? I’d love to hear from you!

Have I missed anything? Are there any songs I should have included in our playlist? Drop me a line in the comment section below! Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss our next monthly (ish) post (We’ll never bother you more than once a month). PLUS! subscribers get a discount on any purchase made from us.

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