“I don’t like to imprint my sound on what a band does. I always think of it as their recording, not mine. That’s the most important thing…. I like to get everyone playing together – even though we might be interested in concentrating on getting a good drum sound or whatever – in order to capture the nuances of a performance.” – Stephen Street
Their differences with Fire were settled, contracts were drawn up, advances were paid, and all that was left was for Pulp to produce their first properly-funded album. With the financial weight of Island Records behind them and the pressure of expectations, the temptation to become pernickety perfectionists was a very real danger, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Pulp felt the need to go shopping around for a producer. Britpop was now looming in the near-distance and Stephen Street was the man to watch – with his work on Parklife and The Great Escape he would come to define the sound of the mid 90s. That was still a couple of years away, though, and for now he was still just a former Smiths engineer who was working with a few minor-league indie groups, albeit one with a certain amount of buzz.
“He came up to the rehearsal room which was above my mother’s pottery shop in Catcliffe, so we were all crowded into this tiny space. One of the cleanest men you’ll ever see – he could go down into a coal mine in a white suit and come out looking sparkling. Really nice bloke. It was good ‘cos he came to the rehearsal and he listened.” – Nick Banks in ‘Truth & Beauty’
Three tracks were recorded at their session at Axis Studio in Sheffield – Le Roi Des Fourrnis (a cover version, so hardly a fair representation), a demo version of Lipgloss (which remains unreleased) and You’re Not Blind; the only version of the song ever recorded, and one which was immediately shelved and forgotten about until the expanded version of the album was released in 2006. It’s a unique opportunity, then, to see what a different handling of Pulp could sound like.
A mid-tempo pop song (in Jarvis’s words “another attempt to rewrite Babies”), You’re Not Blind features a very promising verse with an exquisite guitar motif* which sounds excitingly like it’s going somewhere but then fizzles out into a semi-written sketch of a chorus. The lyrics also seem to lack sufficient fleshing-out; we’ve got the usual infidelity and girlfriend-stealing with a dash of the venom later heard in I Spy, only without any convincing narrative reasons behind them – leading to the impression of a “supremely nasty sentiment” described by Jarvis in the sleeve notes. He’s about to steal or has already stolen your girlfriend, and he wants to rub it in, but without detail it all seems purposelessly cruel.
The production is probably the only real thing of note here. In contrast to Buller’s vast magical nebula of sound, it’s possible to pick out every instrument, even on a casual listen. Candida’s keyboard is strikingly different, sounding for once like an instrument rather than an all-enveloping atmosphere. If that sounds good to you, then I’m sorry to say it’s a bit too normal for my taste, and Jarvis seems to have agreed.
“I thought he was good, I would have given him as my choice to go on and do the His ‘n’ Hers stuff… But I don’t think Jarvis liked his producing ‘cos he thought he was too nice, everything was too nice, all too clean, you could kind of hear everything.” – Nick Banks in ‘Truth & Beauty
A failure, then? Well, not really. It’s hardly fair to judge something that was apparently only semi-worked out at the time, the verse is fine, and with a decent chorus you can just about picture it becoming something pretty special. After all, there’s nothing really wrong with it – it’s just that with so many superb songs in the air, there were bound to be a few casualties.
*Nobody seems to be sure of the identity of the guitarist here, but something about it sounds like it could possibly have been a very early bit of Mark Webber.