Review Summary: The albums subtitle - "Ten Songs about Power, Claustrophobia, Suffocation, and Holding Hands" - says it all...
British outcasts Pulp
debuted in 1983 with the album It
was a cheerful and gay album with plenty of beautiful moments. Pulp presented themselves as a very emotional band, capable of crafting haunting ballads and happy-go-lucky upbeat romantic pop tunes.
It is with It
we for the first time on record get to hear Jarvis Cocker
's dark and classy voice. The first time you hear it, you'll notice it sounding a bit awkward, and (intentionally?) out of tune every now and then. It doesn't sound forced in any way, it just sounds... awkward.
But it wasn't until the release of Freaks
in 1987 his lyrics started to match his voice. On Freaks
, both his voice and lyrics are dark and classy. And they're both awkward and "out of tune". He sings in a crescendo of rage and passion, with a dark voice, comparable to Steven Patrick Morrisey
's. He'll do mellow singing, rapid speaking, moderately-quiet singing and manic shouting within a matter of minutes, sometimes even seconds, and it's all done in an impressively dramatic and borderline mad way.
Musically - it came as no surprise that Pulp would sound like a new band with this album, as they essentially were a new band. After It
flopped, the band broke up - and Cocker assembled a new lineup, that was supposed to take a totally new direction. And they certainly did.
is to be given much of the credit for Pulp's new direction. His often simplistic and relaxed way of playing guitar has a tendency to progress into fragments of insanity, completely in style with Cocker's vocal performance, without ever abandoning his tranquil touch ("Fairground" and "Anorexic Beauty"). He also plays a lurid and sharp violin on a few of the tracks ("The Never-Ending Story" and "They Suffocate At Night"), and he does that with equally interesting shifts of style and tempo. He plays a vital role in making every track on this album appealing in one way or the other.
handles the drum kit in a very progressive way, crafting many complex patterns with the ability to fashionably blend into any melody, and make it considerably more interesting.
His sister - Candida Doyle
, plays the organ and the piano. On some of the tracks, she adds a dark and intense atmosphere almost all by herself ("Being Followed Home", "Master of the Universe").
- Candida Doyle's boyfriend - is the bassist on this album. He manages to keep himself noticeable throughout the whole album, as well as really shine on a few of the tracks ("Fairground" and "They Suffocate At Night").
But the real star on this album is without a doubt, the genius that is Jarvis Cocker. He manages to keep the listeners in a suspense throughout the whole album with his thriving dark voice and exciting lyrics. The lyrical themes are very diverse throughout the album, but what seems to be evident in nearly every song is the sense of paranoia and lunacy that are further enhanced by the dramatic, emotional and distraught vocal performance. What at first seems to be pretty and romantic ballads ("I Want You", "Life Must Be So Wonderful" and "They Suffocate at Night") grows into cold, cynical and painful confessions by what simply must be a cold cynic who has endured plenty of pain in his life. How can a sane man have written "No, I don't believe in voices/because I hear them all the time/scraping tears from hardened faces/with their stupid ugly rhymes
" ("There's No Emotion")?
Combining these four personalities and the dirty mixing - this is a unique band capable of producing pop songs that are undeniably catchy and danceable, but at the same time undeniably dark and clever. The closest thing to a happy-go-lucky track, reminiscent of the songs from It
, would have to be "I Want You". Apart from that track - every track sounds cold and lonely. This album could just as well been recorded by winter itself. Pulp is on the verge of creating an entirely new genre on this album.
From the angst-filled noise party of "Fairground" to the creepy "There's No Emotion" to the soothing "Don't You Know" to the grande finale "They Suffocate At Night", this album truly lives up to it's subtitle - "Ten Songs about Power, Claustrophobia, Suffocation, and Holding Hands
"; and I can't even think of a more fitting name for this album than "Freaks
". Pulp will have you pulled in within the first fifty seconds of the first track. Histrionic, theatric, dramatic and grandiose galore, this is an excellent album that deserves to be heard.