Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is 'Seperations' by Pulp.
Pulp are the classic overnight success, 20 years in the making, with widespread acclaim and popularity arriving following the release of their fifth album ‘Different Class’.
However, Pulp’s journey, just like the lyrics and characters in their songs, was anything but simple. A revolving door of musicians and line-ups made Pulp the accidental Spinal Tap of Sheffield (24 musicians have officially been in Pulp with at least 6 additional musicians performing live with the band during their career). It wasn’t until their third album ‘Seperations’, which began recording in 1989, that Pulp as we know them came into existence on record with the additions of Steve Mackey (bass) and Nick Banks (drums).
Rejuvenated by the new line-up, ‘Seperations’ sees Pulp make huge strides, both sonically and creatively, with hints of the timeless songwriting and distinctive Pulp sound that was to follow. Here, Cocker moves from the cynic, mimicking the likes of Leonard Cohen, into a fully-formed persona of his own, lassoing the gruff potential of his steel city accent and turning it to his advantage.
In other words, out walked Jarvis Cocker the boy and in walked Jarvis Cocker the man - confident, assured, his individuality weaponised and ready to explode.
The newly-minted rhythm section gives Pulp a previously unseen bite. Perhaps buoyed by the new line-up, Candida Doyle (keyboards) and Russell Senior (guitar) also deliver their finest work to date.
Don’t You Want Me Anymore is the perfect early example of the new burgeoning Pulp, the protagonist surprised that his former lover hasn’t waited patiently in a sexless hell for 18 months after he upped and left her unannounced.
She’s Dead evokes Scott Walker and Harry Nilsson, its Glenn Campbell-esque staccato lead guitar the perfect foil to the lush orchestration as Cocker leads us through the wake of another dead romance.
The album was given the name ‘Seperations’ for a clear reason as the songs are separated into two distinct categories, between the more traditional forms and those songs which embraced the modern explosion of house music.
This may sound surprising on the face of it for the uninitiated, but there has always been an element of Nouvelle Chanson running throughout Pulp’s compositions. It is fitting then, that Down By The River acts as a bridge between the two sides of the album, with its European folk leaning rhythm and tale of unrequited love bleeding into a chorus with a cocktail of Serge Gainsbourg influenced sounds. The sound is not the only thing that separates ‘Seperations’ though - the recording started in 1989, but the album was not released until 1992 and the band went through a growth spurt before concluding it in sessions taped in 1991.
Countdown introduces a more bombastic sound, with emphasis on synths and scratchy, baggy wah wah guitar sound popularised by The Stone Roses on Fools Gold. Countdown was rerecorded at a slightly higher tempo and released as a single. You can find that version on the compilation album ‘Countdown’ which chronicles the best of Pulp’s first 3 albums in reverse order. It’s worth listening to for the extended version of Countdown, which also appears on the remastered version of ‘Seperations’.
My Legendary Girlfriend is a pivotal moment in the Pulp canon -the first tangible version of the Pulp the world would come to adore, with Cocker embracing his peculiarity like never before. Death II in hindsight also signposts us to ‘His ‘N’ Hers’ and beyond, Cocker and Pulp clearly finding their stride like never before.
It is fitting then that the album closes with Pulp’s most modern track to date and also says goodbye to the voice of Russell Senior, who takes his last turn helming the group on this spoken word house venture.
Pulp had reinvented themselves, the fact that only two singles were released - Countdown and My Legendary Girlfriend - is telling. Pulp had stepped out of their cocoon. Island Records would soon come calling, and hits such as Do You Remember The First Time? would ensure them a top ten UK chart position and fast-track them to stardom, but the hard work, the struggle to become an overnight success, the vital steps are contained in ‘Seperations’.
It’s far from perfect, but it has a certain charm.