#45 – Coy Mistress

14 Jul

Coy Mistress
Coy Mistress at Pulpwiki

In January 1984 five men entered Vibrasound Studios in Sheffield. Were they a band, or an experimental theatre company? Judging by their recent performance history, it would perhaps be safe to assume the latter. ‘Pulp’ had petered out over the summer, and nothing they’d done since then could be described as a “gig.” Of the four songs recorded that day, two remain unreleased and uncirculated, one is a rough but effective demo of ‘I Want You‘ and the final track, well, it’s ‘Coy Mistress’

Falling firmly on the ‘performance art’ side of the identity crisis divide, ‘Coy Mistress’ features one minute and twenty-six seconds of Russell loudly, menacingly proclaiming a half-remembered bastardisation of Andrew Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’. The 46 lines of the original are reduced to 11, though the essence of the piece seems undamaged – in fact, the lecherousness of the original is enhanced by the replacement of “but thirty thousand to the rest” with the sly, mischievous intonation of “and a considerably longer amount for all the rest.” Elsewhere time’s winged chariot is imbued with a “long skanky finger” which goes “smack, smack, smack.” Not a reverential reading then, but one suited for the theatre.

Behind Russell, Jarvis plays ominously on a church organ, while Magnus tinkles around on a xylophone. At two points in the track Magnus also throws in thunderous cymbal-rolls, presumably to disconcert any listeners who are somehow relaxing or not paying attention.

If it were a full-length track, or if it were anything other than a one-off, there’s every chance that ‘Coy Mistress’ would become tedious. As a stand-alone piece, however, it entertains and amuses without overstaying its welcome. Pulp never gave it a proper release, putting it out only on two obscure tape compilations, each time marking the beginning or end of a side, and each time accompanied by another, more sensible sample of the band’s work.

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