#118 – The Babysitter

7 Dec

Nick Banks

The Babysitter (B-side to ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ 1994)

The Babysitter at Pulpwiki

A year after the ‘Inside Susan’ trilogy Pulp put out a final chapter in the saga on the b-side of ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ Chronologically, then, this entry is appearing a little too early, but it seemed like a good idea to put the Susan songs together.

It’s a few years after the party, and Susan has hired a babysitter – one that looks remarkably similar to a younger version of herself. This has sparked some sort of reaction in her architect husband, who the song is largely addressed to. Instead of rekindling his interest in his wife, he has become increasingly obsessed with this younger model. In the second verse it’s revealed that he acted on his impulses, only for Susan to return home and find the two of them at it, in her daughter’s bed, no less. And then she leaves him, and that’s that. It’s an decent enough vignette, but placed in the company of ‘Babies’ and the rest of ‘Inside Susan’ it does seem rather slight.

Set against this fragment of a story we might expect another gently illustrative backing, but instead we have perhaps the most frenetic piece of music the group have ever produced. In essence it’s a descendent of the instrumental thrashes used to open sets in the mid 80s, and as then it’s an opportunity to show off the sound they’ve developed. It’s a new sound now, of course, built around an interplay between keyboards and rhythm section. Here they sound tight and controlled, yet manic and bursting with energy. Candida drives them ever faster forward, while Nick powers along, riffing, spinning and constantly erupting into all kinds of fills and odd patterns. Together they sound, bizarrely, like late 90s experimental electronic act Add N to (X) – perhaps this track was even an influence.

Then it shifts to the slow section, a continuation of 57 Lyndhurst Grove, all low key electronics, the rest of the group keeping a steady pace, and the vocals come in – once again, sung softly rather than spoken. The segue between the two is actually quite well-executed, especially Candida’s keyboard line, which morphs nicely into something fairly low-key and quizzical. And yet I can’t help feeling that however well its done, the two parts aren’t supposed to be together. Sometimes when something works well it’s easy to lose the bigger picture of whether it’s needed, and I suspect that’s what happened here. Then there’s another fast section, another slow one, and we fade out on an unsatisfying minor key.

The Babysitter has a very odd structure for a fairly run-of-the-mill lyric and it’s hard not to wonder why. Perhaps the rush of the instrumental section represents the internal passion and nervous panic of the husband, with the slow part showing his calm, middle-class English exterior. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it – this is a simple enough song, one which I enjoy a great deal, but it’s pretty much undeniably a minor work.

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