Tag Archives: perversion

#114 – Pink Glove

9 Nov

Julie Jones in Lipgloss Promo

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.

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#78 – Master of the Universe

2 Mar

Master of the Universe (Freaks, 1987)
Master of the Universe (Sanitised Version) (Single, 1987)
Master of the Universe at Pulpwiki

‘Master of the Universe’ – an explanation:
He was God and she was His congregation.
But when she lost her faith, He lost His power.
Now the thigh-length boot’s on the other foot.
(You might think it’s funny, but someone’s always got to be boss.)

– original sleevenotes

In late 1985, in the middle of the group’s first nationwide tour, Jarvis fell out of a window. It wasn’t a particularly high window, just two floors up, but it was enough to break his wrist, ankle and pelvis, leaving him confined to a wheelchair for much of 1986. Embarrassingly enough, he hadn’t been rescuing a cat or talking down a potential suicide, but doing a drunken Spiderman impression to impress a girl at a party – out one window and in another. Halfway through he realised he wasn’t going to make it to the other ledge and just had to let go.

Stuck in a hospital bed for a month, the tour cancelled, doctors warning him he may not walk properly again… things weren’t exactly looking up. As he lay in his childhood bedroom convalescing, while his Mother sat downstairs watching ‘Lovejoy’, he noticed a bottle of novelty “Masters of the Universe” shampoo he’d bought, and laughed at the irony of using it in his state. What kind of immense power would you need to have to be “master” of the entire universe? How utterly deluded would you have to be to give yourself such a title?

Master of the Universe is a parable, then. The sort of parable which usually stars Anthony Ainley as The Master, i.e. not a particularly subtle one, one which doesn’t bear any kind of serious analysis, but I’ll see what I can wring out anyway. Our protagonist, the “master of the universe”, is in conversation with a female underling who he is taking great pleasure in mistreating. His power comes from faith – without the compliance of the masses under him he is nothing. When his underling fails to take him seriously their positions are inverted, and he becomes her whipping boy / slave dog. He relishes both positions, lending the song a sadomasochistic air – but rather than ringing true in any way this seems to be the same use of sexual perversion we saw in ‘Maureen’ – ‘difficult’ shock-topics resorted to as a replacement for real passion or feeling. It might even have been intended to be funny, but I doubt it.

Understandably, Master of the Universe has garnered more attention for its musical style than its theme. On the surface a grimy goth-rock thrash it in many ways prefigures the ‘Slavic disco’ sound the next line-up would embrace. If you listen to ‘Rattlesnake’ next to MOTU you can clearly hear the shared DNA. MOTU is something of an inbred cousin, though, and you can hear unhelpful hints of other failed experiments, like the whirlitzer organ from ‘Fairground’. The song does at least have some energy to it, so it’s not a pain to listen to, but neither is it a joy. The band’s performance doesn’t really help matters. Jarvis dominates the song with his ludicrously mannered vocal, a nasal growling devil-voice with flat-out annoying pronunciation of common words and bizarre unnecessary trills. Magnus doesn’t help things with his slightly off drums either – though a great drummer, he never seemed to get to grips with this disco rhythm. The rest of the band aren’t helping things either – though the song wasn’t new, nobody seems sure at all of how it’s supposed to sound.

Master of the Universe was an odd choice as a second single from ‘Freaks’ – the only things to be said in its favour being that it was fairly upbeat and that it hinted at the band’s new direction. All the same, it was an unpalatable bit of sci-fi goth-rock nonsense, and backed with the dull ‘Manon’ and the excruciating ‘Silence’ it perhaps counts as Pulp’s worst ever single. Fire insisted that the band re-record two lines to change the words ‘masturbates’ to ‘vegetates’ and ‘comes’ to ‘keeps’, but the idea that this would lead to any radio play was wildly optimistic. The single got two minor, obtuse mentions in the music press and quickly sank without trace. The band, who had split up and reformed by the time it was released, weren’t even sent a copy. Intentionally or not, the single serves as a “so long, fuck off” note to the era, as the band noted on the back of the sleeve;

“This record marks the end of Pulp #3. Pulp #4 will follow shortly.”