Tag Archives: instrumental

#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.

#59 – Hydroelectric Dam

20 Oct

Hydroelectric Dam (Live at The Hallamshire Hotel, 1985)
Hydroelectric Dam at Pulpwiki

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.

#19-23 – Missing Songs, Early 1982

9 Mar

With the Peel session broadcast, and the band on the front of the Sheffield Star in their school uniforms, Pulp went overnight from being also-rans, not good enough to get on the decidedly patchy ‘Bouquet of Steel’ compilation, to the relative heights of the Sheffield B-league. As the A-league had largely migrated to London by 1982, this meant Pulp were headlining their own gigs, or supporting well-known groups like Artery. They even had their own feature in Melody Maker and a review in Sounds – everything looked like it was on the up. Sadly, though, the next year would see the attention begin to fade, and now they were finishing their A-levels there was pressure on Jarvis and Dolly to finish messing around and go to university.
This is another era where almost nothing is in circulation, but recordings do exist, so we’re more likely to eventually hear some of these than Message To The Martians or Shakespeare Rock. These five songs were performed live, but none were ever professionally recorded. What little information we have on them is largely sourced from Mark Sturdy’s book.

#19 – Thrash

A noisy instrumental song used to open shows, with a typical Jamie Pinchbeck bassline smothered in spiky guitar chords.

#20 – Zhivago

Could this be the start of the band’s mid-80s obsession with Slavic culture? At a gig at Bath University Jarvis describes ‘Zhivago’ as “that rare thing in modern music, a Russian love song.” Mark Sturdy describes the song as having a “jerky, Eastern-sounding bassline, thudding, syncopated drums and  a nicely dissonant guitar.” With lyrics like “Days out in the snow, seem so long ago” it sounds very much like the song may be based on the 1965 film version of Doctor Zhivago

In February that year, Pulp gained a 5th member. David Hinkler (younger brother of Simon Hinkler of Artery) had previously played with Wayne in Vector 7-7, and had a roving role, playing guitar, keyboards and trombone, generally expanding and augmenting the band’s sound. After a short while he settled down as the group’s keyboard player, setting up on one side of the stage, with Dolly on the other with his organ and cornet.

#21 – Red Letter Day
The first of three tracks preserved in an (uncirculated) recording from The Limit, in April. This one is, apparently, a moody, down-tempo song about receiving a ‘Dear John’ letter. It was a new one, but didn’t survive to be recorded for ‘It’ a year later, so the song may never have been properly finished.

#22 – You’ve Got a Face
Another song first performed at The Limit, this one seems to have been “twitchy ska”, perhaps in the vein of ‘I Scrubbed The Crabs…’.

#23 – You Go First
The third new song from the gig at The Limit, a moody number built around Dolly’s wobbly synths.