Pink Glove (His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)
Pink Glove (John Peel Session, 1993)
Pink Glove (Live film, No Stillettos, 1993)
Pink Glove (Live film, Astoria Theatre, London, 1994)
Pink Glove (Live film, Reading 1994)
Pink Glove (Live film, Glastonbury 1995)
Pink Glove (Live film, La Bikini, Toulouse, 2011)
Pink Glove (Live film, Dour, Belgium, 2011)
Pink Glove at Pulpwiki
“This is a song about one of those situations where you have to wear something to keep someone else happy… it’s a trade-off between what you want for yourself and what you’re prepared to do to keep them happy and why they liked you in ine first place. I’ve never been in a situation like that, I just write about them” – Jarvis Cocker in Q Magazine, January 1995.
“Suspenders and stockings / Look more sexy than the tights girls are wearing / But even there, weren’t the time wasted? / Time that could be spent completely nude, bare, naked?” – Soft Machine, ‘Pig’ from ‘Soft Machine Volume 2’
We all play roles in life, we’re all actors playing ourselves, and the first thing an actor needs to do is get the clothes right. So, what does “faking it” or “being true to yourself” mean, then? How far does our instinct lead us and how much can it be led for others? Can this role be taken over by guilt, fear or stubbornness – and at what point does it stop being ‘you’ and become something else? These are difficult issues to address, especially when lacking any kind of emotional distance or detachment, but Pink Glove dives headlong into the fray without the slightest concern for preserving dignity or self-respect and surfaces, gasping, enlightened.
Of course, this is all within the now expected framing device of a battle of wills over a lost girlfriend, an ex he’s trying to win back. We saw this in Razzmatazz – again, he thinks she was better off with him. This time, though, there’s genuine concern mixed in with the cruel empathy. She’s gone along with things she doesn’t like for her new boyfriend, once you’ve started to pretend to like something, it’s hard to stop, and now she’s caught in a trap, lured in by inexperience, kept captive by misplaced love.
Beyond this, even, there’s a sense of disgust from the narrator at his rival’s fetishes – if he can appreciate the girl for just being herself, why does this man need to dress her up in these ridiculous costumes to get off? Doesn’t she deserve better than that? But no, of course, she doesn’t agree.
Pink Glove is an act of persuasion – “…every now and then in the evening…” – despair – “…if you touch him again then I’m going…” – loyalty – ” you got it right first time” and disappointment – “should you stop being you?” It’s a frustrated, near-distraught rant, full to the brim with self-pity and other-pity. This feeling is amplified by Jarvis’s vocal performance, woring as a fair approximation of a man having a breakdown, veering between told-you-so triumph and utter desperation. At times it even sounds like he’s crying.
Into this fray comes Ed Buller, ramping up the alienation with a Bowie-esque vocal echo and spooning on his usual layers of atmospherics on top of Candida’s keyboards*. The effect is stronger the more you focus on it – dream-pop intermingling with horror soundtrack ambient, with occasional power chords bursting through the murk, the galloping rhythm of an immense impending something driving it forward. There’s something vaguely hymnal about it, and something odd, sickly and nauseous too.
It sounds astonishing, doesn’t it – and indeed, Pink Glove has done well in all manner of popularity polls – but for some reason I’ve always found the song hard to love. It’s something about the lack of a climax, the smoothed-out, soporific production. I can appreciate it, especially when reduced to its component parts, but somehow it just feels distant. it doesn’t move me, and it should.
Perhaps Ed Buller is to blame again – a shame as by all counts he’s done a fantastic job here, and yet it’s all too much. To demonstrate this, have a listen to the John Peel session version to pull off the (beautiful) polyester veneer and reveal the surprisingly tight post-punk song beneath. There’s almost nothing in the way of production here to hide behind, and given the chance the song comes alive. Nick’s sparse, perfect drumming propels the thing along while Russell juts in with his wah-wah guitar, and Jarvis controls himself a bit more (which sounds like a loss, but it’s not.) Much as with Wishful Thinking a decade earlier, in producing something perfect-sounding, something vital was lost, and all in the name of creating a uniform feel across the LP. It’s a shame.
*In order to replicate this in a live setting, the group had to rope in Mark Webber – and since Pink Glove was something of a live staple it meant that he was suddenly needed on stage a lot more.