Throughout the seventies and early eighties there was a steady pattern with musical movements. Each would start as an underground scene, score a hit or some press coverage, then blow up into a massive cultural event before finally becoming part of the cultural landscape and fading slowly away in clear sight, with everyone’s interest turning to the next big thing. Then along came 1982, and the pattern was broken – for that year’s new movement was the nameless post-new-wave folky acoustic ‘Cherry Red’ sound, and for some reason the public showed little or no interest in The Marine Girls and The Monochrome Set.
‘In Many Ways’ sounds very much like an offcut from ‘Pillows and Prayers‘, but unfortunately Pulp are no Felt here. A listless, almost comatose ballad, with only the most minimal of choruses, it’s probably the most forgettable thing on the album. Drifting in and out without any drama or resolution, it’s hard to get worked up in either direction about it.
To be fair here, it’s not all bad. The (wilfully opaque) lyrics are about the fleeting nature of love, perhaps relating to a particular relationship. Jarvis seems torn between considering it a short-term fling or something more substantial, finally zeroing in on a sense of dissatisfaction, and acceptance that there’s nothing wrong with short-term fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously, or make the mistake of imagining it’s something more significant. I can’t help but wonder what the girl thought about it. A fairly cynical viewpoint, then, and a more mature one than we’ve seen on the rest of the album, but unfortunately not imbued with any great insight.
Accompanying the melancholy crooning of these thoughts, we have another stripped down, Leonard Cohen style production. The shimmering mediterranean guitar is pitched just right, and the backing vocals are nothing short of lovely. The bongos, to be perfectly honest, just sound limp and dated, but even that doesn’t really sink the song – it’s the lack of progression that really does for it in the end. If you’re going to repeat the same parts over and over again then they’d better be special, and nothing here really is.
‘In Many Ways’ is engaging in parts, but ultimately nothing to write home about. It’s too inoffensive to hate, too inconsequential to love, and it’s no surprise that it ended up hidden away at the end of the album.