The dawn of the internet age in the late 90s made one crucial difference to your average Pulp obsessive. Where once bootlegs were hard to find, and representative only of the post-’93 era, suddenly there were a brace from beforehand available – La Cigale ’91, Sound City ’93, but most excitingly a couple of recordings from the 80s – a first glimpse into the odd world of ‘Freaks’ era live shows, containing – excitingly – four previously unheard tracks. Four new songs from just two shows! Who knows how much else could be out there?
A decade later, it has transpired that this is pretty much ‘it’ – by chance we got the unrecorded songs (of this particular time) all in one batch. The end of ’84 and the start of ’85 seems to have been host to a final bit of experimentation before the band started to hone what they already had in preparation for album sessions. In a sense this makes this brace of songs even more valuable, though, as has been noted by most observers, it seems a shame to have lost some fairly decent bits of music.
Of the four tracks, Hydroelectric Dam is easily the least celebrated, despite there being two recordings of it rather than one. This is natural enough – it is, after all, just a piece of intro music for the group, though it does bear the odd distinction of being the only entirely instrumental piece in their catalogue. It’s a growling, chugging, mechanical piece of music, based on quite a powerful rhythm, but unfortunately it loses all focus whenever it diverges from this basic idea. Towards the end we do seem to be building towards some kind of climax, but eventually the tension is dissipated – just in time for the real set. It’s easy to see why it was never developed further, but as a mood setter it does its job well enough.