Pulp - It (Reissue)
released 13 February 2012 on Fire Records
In retrospect, Pulp’s elevation to the Britpop top table looks more than a little incongruous. They’re inextricably linked to the movement, yet their age, music and lyrical themes were always out of step with the wave of Cool Britannia that was sweeping the nation. They were outsiders, and the liner notes of Different Class marked out this difference between them and their peers: “We don’t want no trouble, we just want the right to be different. That’s all.” This wilful individuality seems very much at odds with the Pulp of It, their first album from 1983. This Pulp are completely in thrall to the popular music of the times, and many of the songs could be the work of any number of early '80s British indie bands. Despite having been a going concern for five years by this point, Pulp clearly still hadn’t found their voice, and preferred to purloin from Aztec Camera and Echo & the Bunnymen instead. In a world about to embrace The Smiths, It offers little to write home about. Album opener, My Lighthouse, is a pretty, acoustic-led track which makes good use of Cocker’s fruity voice and some de rigueur jangle. In Many Ways is The Byrds if they’d studied at a Northern polytechnic and lived in a flat with a temperamental electric storage heater. Looking For Life is a rockier Cocteau Twins by way of the first Doors record. However, there’s still a lack of direction that scuppers the entire album. Listening to It in 2012, it’s impossible not to keep an ear out for clues of what Pulp were to become, or any evidence of genius that simply needed refinement.
The best, most interesting, track is Love Love, which goes far deeper than its horn and barroom-joanna music-hall sounds (strangely reminiscent of Parklife-era Blur actually) would suggest. Jauntiness and life-affirming aren’t often qualities you associate with Pulp, but Love Love has them in spades, and shows a willingness to break away from type that the rest of the album lacks. It also gives us the first taste of the Cocker persona that would go on to become a national treasure. It’s a little more cheeky than '90s Jarvis, but lines like “I recall a special girl, I invited her round for tea / and while my mum was cooking the meal she was under the table with me,” show the fascination with the sex lives of normal people, and the willingness to combine the seedy with the humdrum. In reality, It is more of an interesting historical document than an enjoyable album. For the most part, you’d be hard pressed to reconcile the Pulp of It with the Pulp who shot to fame less than a decade later, but it’s not without its ramshackle charm. We should be grateful that It belongs to a more innocent time, where bands were allowed to make mistakes, develop and flourish before realising their potential.