Tag Archives: sex

#137 – Underwear

18 Dec

corsetshow16

Underwear (Different Class, 1995)
Underwear (Peel Session, 1994)
Underwear (Black Sessions, 1995)
Underwear (Live film, Reading 1994)
Underwear (Live film, Glastonbury 1995)
Underwear (Live film, The White Room, 1995)
Underwear (Live film, Amsterdam, 1995)
Underwear (Live film, Eden Project 2002)
Underwear (Live film, Reading 2011)
Underwear at Pulpwiki

“It is a horrible feeling. It makes you feel something less than human, like you can get carried away with this need… Your body’s saying, ‘Go on, do it. Offload that! Just get it done’…. The only similar thing is having a kebab. Somehow, when you’re really pissed, you get into that perverse frame of mind where you think, ‘Right, I’m hammered. I’m a mess. How can I take it further?’ And the answer is: ‘I’ll have a kebab.’ Somehow it rounds the experience off and you get some kind of perverse satisfaction from the knowledge that you were low, and yet you thought of a way of taking it lower. And there is something you can learn from that – not necessarily something that you’ll want etched on your gravestone, but it’s good to acknowledge that sometimes you get those unwise impulses. Somehow, from taking it that far, you get something out of it.”

Interview in The Face, 1 June 1995

“It’s like situations where you’ll maybe get back to someone’s house and it seeems the coffee has been had and sex action could take place, and maybe you’ve even got down to the underpants but then you think maybe this isn’t a good idea because you’ve changed your mind or gone off the person or sobered up. it’s about being past the point of no return but not wanting to do anything. It’s a bit personal.”

Interview in NME, 23rd September 1995

“This is about going home with someone, which seems like a good thing to do when you decide to do it. But when you get to the actual nitty-gritty, when you are actually standing in your underwear you think I can’t good through with this, but how do you get out of that situation?”

Introducing Underwear at Aston Villa Leisure Centre in October 1994

“If fashion is your trade / then when you’re naked / I guess you must be unemployed”

We re-join Pulp on the 10th of July 1994, at the unappealingly-named ‘Dour Festival’ in Belgium for the inception of what would turn out to be their high-watermark imperial phase; the writing, recording, releasing and world-touring around ‘Different Class’. The group already had a following, of course, and would continue to pick up fans up until the present day, but for the general public these are the years where the group were visible on a national (and sometimes international) stage . The intended audience for this music isn’t a select group any more, it’s moreorless everyone, and the flavour of this is present in almost every note of the album. It’s the first sight of the Pulp known to the general public and spotlights Jarvis Cocker’s transition from a “freak” to a public figure to be wheeled out for quiz shows, award ceremonies and (thankfully occasional) adverts.

For a bunch of self-defined outsiders, this alone is an odd move, but even stranger is the fact that the band seemed to somehow see this coming, even as early as the summer of ’94. Their sound, while remaining firmly their own, is having some rough edges smoothed off, and songs are starting to aim for more general themes rather than the purely personal – not in a Carter USM “this is our one about the racism in the Army” way, but as having an experience ready to present to the public as a whole, and with the expectation that they would actually listen.

The theme of ‘Underwear’ is “sexual consent” – though it’s hardly the standard take on the topic. Art that addresses consent (understandably) tends to treat it with kid gloves, either addressing men with “you must get consent, no means no,” or women with “don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with.” These are both excellent, reasonable lines to take when (as is usual) talk of ‘consent’ is used as a proxy for talk about rape and how it can be prevented. ‘Underwear’, on the other hand, is concerned only with consent without mention of threat or external coercion, and aims to understand instead of offering practical advice. It places you right there inside the making and unmaking of a decision.

In the early 90s popular culture seemed to be awash with a collection of second-hand self-actualization-course borrowings of Taoist sayings – “go with the flow” or as Oasis were soon to put it “roll with it.” The idea that your subconscious is better at running your life than your critical mind is quite a seductive one, with a fair amount of evidence on its side (so long as you don’t take “accept all change in society / politics as natural and don’t question anything” as a corollary.) Interaction with other people is always the confounding factor, however, and in a society where other people don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart, this sort of talk doesn’t work well as advice. For someone with a neurotic personality, deliberately dulled with alcohol, sudden sobriety can turn a trust in instinct into a crisis of self-belief. If you feel a reluctance, a moving away from people, is this a genuine response offered up by your subconscious, or is it a false signal created by the ebbing-away of self-confidence as the alcohol fades? If you’re thinking about whether to go with it then you’re already not going with it, but maybe you want to? Who can really say for sure?

The subject of ‘Underwear’ is stuck in this moment, and what’s worse she has to communicate it to someone she’s barely spoken to, someone she doesn’t even really know, someone she should be way beyond words with already. There’s a fun night behind them with drinking and dancing, she was lost in the moment, but now she suddenly isn’t – she’s semi-naked in a stranger’s bedroom, and he’s coming up the stairs. Communicating all of this with someone she’s barely spoken to in the cold, quiet light of their bedroom, when she’s supposed to be lost in the moment, can only amplify the strain. After all, this is one of the main reasons that people use alcohol – it stops you from thinking when you don’t want to think. But sooner or later everyone has to think. And nakedness has it’s own power too – all the dressing up at the start of the night has fallen away to be replaced with bare biological differences, perhaps even the revealing of hidden truths. It was the artifice which played the lead role, and now it’s left her alone with a stranger.

Clothes give us freedom to express ourselves, and at the same time they allow other people to make their own judgement of us. Clothes can emphasise or minimise gender, sexuality or eccentricity. Clothes can be used to attract, repel, shock, make statements about who you are. Paradoxically, then, shedding your clothes hides your individuality – it emphasises how similarly built you are to the other members of your gender and species, reducing us to “you’re a girl and he’s a boy” whether we want this or not.

‘Underwear’ is a Polaroid snapshot of this single moment, recounted as if it were a long-forgotten playground rhyme suddenly revealed to the narrator in a vision. Sentences are cut up into little interlocking chunks which slot together until halted by “just you…” There’s a nervous dread to the delivery, coupled with that negative euphoria we encountered in Razzmatazz and Lipgloss. At the end of each verse we return to the hook line – “I want to see you…”which runs counter to the rest of the lyric, detaching from this new narrative to return to the seediness of much of His ‘n’ Hers. It’s a strange, possibly jarring aside – why are we suddenly a voyeur here? Is he once again using empathy as a weapon, and if so, why? But it does at least serve as a reminder of what has changed since His ‘n’ Hers.

Behind Jarvis, the rest of the band have also made a fundamental shift. Underwear sounds for the world like an epic rock ballad, complete with power rock chords, a descending piano line motif and a string section (well, Russell) echoing the main melody. Aside from the influence of new producer Chris Thomas (we’ll talk more about him later) this can partly be attributed to the greater role being assumed by Mark Webber. While Mark would probably position himself more in the world of the experimental than traditional rock, the presence of two (or even three) guitarists in the group meant a move away from electronic music was natural. With two guitars in the mix the most obvious way to place them is rhythm and lead – and where you have lead, you have a guitar line providing the melody, not a keyboard. While we aren’t entirely finished with songs being written on a portasound or constructed from rehearsal room jams, these are quickly becoming a thing of the past, for better and for worse.

Listening to the version from their 1994 Peel session reveals many of the joins that make it work. The ambition is all still there, but the bite is all missing – the lack of all those little flourishes reveals the song as, yes, still very pretty underneath, but undressed like this it feels uncomfortably normal to listen to – the work of a good indie band on a very good day rather than a polished pop masterwork. Returning to the original reveals a multitude of expert touches – the repeated echoes of “just remember”, the way the reverb melds into the chorus – so many things going on at, but all fine-tuned and expensive-sounding. There’s even the addition of an instrumental verse to show off the production – really not a very Pulp thing to do prior to this.

I feel like I should be suspicious of Underwear – it’s essentially a re-tread of past glories, pumped up on steroids, but ultimately it just works, a fact that took even the band by surprise. Initially issued as the b-side to Common People, it proved a live favourite, and was soon given a prominent place on Different Class, later even being retconned as a double-A-side and included on the ‘Hits’ compilation in 2002, in the place of the then-purged ‘Mis-Shapes’. While it will never be one of my personal favourites, I have to respect the fact that it’s a song which seems to mean a great deal to many people, and for good reason. This, finally, is the Pulp the world knows.

#121 – Acrylic Afternoons

28 Dec

drawn curtains

Acrylic Afternoons (His ‘n’ Hers, 1994)
Acrylic Afternoons (John Peel Session, 5/3/1993)
Acrylic Afternoons (live film, 1994)
Acrylic Afternoons (live film, Brixton Academy 21/12/1995)
Acrylic Afternoons (live film, Paris Olympia 13/11/2012)
Acrylic Afternoons (live reading, Rough Trade 5/12/2011)
Acrylic Afternoons at Pulpwiki

“When people have sex in songs, it’s done in a glossy way, or in a Prince way – ‘I can shag 24 women in a single night’ – but never in a realistic way, like ‘I came after 30 seconds’, so I just wanted to write about it in a matter-of-fact manner. Maybe English people like the thought of it being forbidden, a little naughty, but it’s no good being reserved about it. You can’t have sex reservedly – you know, a bit detached – and that goes against the English character.”

– Jarvis Cocker in Melody Maker, 1993

“Well cut Windsmoor flapping lightly,
Jacqmar scarf of mauve and green
Hiding hair which, Friday nightly,
Delicately drowns in Drene;
Fair Elaine the bobby-soxer,
Fresh-complexioned with Innoxa,
Gains the garden – father’s hobby –
Hangs her Windsmoor in the lobby,
Settles down to sandwich supper and the television screen.”

– John Betjeman ‘Middlesex’

“We’re now in a semi-detached house in a cul-de-sac somewhere on the outskirts of Sheffield….” It’s telling, is it not, that Jarvis feels the need to set the scene with extra observations like these when introducing live renditions of ‘Acrylic Afternoons’. It’s a song about a dream, in a dream, and dreams have a setting; a time, a place, a moment, a mise-en-scène.

On His ‘n’ Hers no such narration is needed to begin the story – instead we have a set of ghostly, ethereal sounds, and the echoed voices of children playing outside. These effects don’t set the mood so much as the idea that we’re in a dream. Creating this 20 seconds of sound turned out to be a more complicated task than expected, and ended up costing the group a fair amount of studio time.

“Originally, this consisted of a piece known as “The Tunes Of Evil”, a random, unsettling noise conjured up out of this old analogue synth. As soon as we’d committed it to tape, strange things started happening in the studio. The mixing desk blew up, the multi-track for “Joyriders” disintegrated and we had to piece it back together by clever jiggerypokery. Ed Buller developed strange pains in his back and generally, the vibe went bad. So we had to destroy this music, but the engineer erased the wrong track. Obviously, “The Tunes Of Evil” didn’t want to die. The piece you hear at the beginning of “Acrylic Afternoons” is different and, as far as I know, safe.”*

Even without this mythology, the intro is creepy enough on its own – but then the dark, rumbling SFX are interrupted by a few jabs of the keyboard motif, and off we go into a steady-but-undancable, feverish rhythm. Like the best of Pulp’s work it doesn’t have any real sonic parallels – a simple enough musical concept which is still hard to pin down. Steve’s bassline is the real driving force – an urgent, dangerous thing, redolent of dark desires. Russell’s violin circles around, sometimes repeating Candida’s keyboard, sometimes breaking free and buzzing about like an angry wasp trapped in the sitting room. This is particularly notable as Ed Buller for once managed to incorporate it into his vision for the song, demonstrating that their two approaches weren’t fundamentally incompatible – though he kept him low in the mix. Altogether, the whole sounds like a series of musical moments linked by the overarching narrative of a pursuit, perhaps like the one in ‘Being Followed Home’ – but now instead of being the prey, we are joyously part of the chase.

It’s a dream, then, and that’s how we started; with “a small child in dungarees who caught his hands in the doors of the Paris metro.”** Then our narrator wakes up, or perhaps he doesn’t – everything after this point seems equally dreamlike. We’re transported to another world – the clearest picture yet of the suburban section of the sexualized city, a place Jarvis expresses equal parts lust and repulsion towards – this ambivalence being perhaps the most important theme of ‘His ‘n’ Hers’. Here the suburbs (South London or Sheffield, it doesn’t really matter) are stuck in a temporal bubble; a world where it is and always has been 4.30 on an eternally sunny July afternoon. The imagery here is vivid, startlingly so – “Net curtains blowing slightly in the breeze / Lemonade light filtering through the trees / It’s so soft and it’s warm / Just another cup of tea please.” Put simply, it’s as evocative as any poem I know, condensing atmosphere, passions, culture and synthetic-fabric-based fetishes into tight stanzas that flow together organically.

It’s a “sexy” song, too, of course, but nothing really explicit happens until we get to the “pink quilted eiderdown…” and even then the almost ‘Carry On’ level of smut it contains is neutralised by the utter lack of a wink or a nod. Jarvis sounds completely sincere in his rapture, and at times is so carried away that he sounds like a breathy nuisance phone-caller. Elsewhere he loses control entirely and embarks on a series of vocal gymnastics – raw, animalistic squeals & squeaks which, again, could be hilarious if they weren’t played so absolutely straight. This could be his best ever vocal performance.

We’ve dealt with quite a few constructed characters on this blog, and there will be plenty more, but with this dream, this fantasy, the woman is subsumed by the place and the moment. She is merely a type, and at the end she is a plural, another single mother in an identical house, having an identical affair. Jarvis isn’t important either; he’s just another visiting lover. The dream isn’t about people then, it’s about the feeling of the moment, the place. Acrylic Afternoons is a hymn to that afternoon in suburbia, a thematic manifesto for the album, and it will always remain in that bubble, delirious, enraptured in the moment.

*This sounds quite like a famous (but possibly partially apocryphal) anecdote about Brian Wilson starting to lose his mind during the recording of ‘Smile’ –

“Yeah,” said Brian on the way home, an acetate trial copy or “dub” of the tape in his hands, the red plastic fire helmet still on his head. “Yeah, I’m going to call this ‘Mrs. O’Leary’s Fire’ and I think it might just scare a whole lot of people.”
As it turns out, however, Brian Wilson’s magic fire music is not going to scare anybody—because nobody other than the few people who heard it in the studio will ever get to listen to it. A few days after the record was finished, a building across the street from the studio burned down and, according to Brian, there was also an unusually large number of fires in Los Angeles. Afraid that his music might in fact turn out to be magic fire music, Wilson destroyed the master.
“I don’t have to do a big scary fire like that,” he later said. “I can do a candle and it’s still fire. That would have been a really bad vibration to let out on the world, that Chicago fire. The next one is going to be a candle.”
— Jules Siegel, ‘Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!’

**A reference to this sign, with a rabbit rather than a child:

#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.

#113 – Sheffield: Sex City

2 Nov

Park_Hill_facade

Sheffield: Sex City (B-side to ‘Babies’, 1992)
Sheffield: Sex City (instrumental)
Sheffield: Sex City (live film, The Warehouse, ITV, 1993)
Sheffield Sex City (live film, Brixton O2 Academy 01/09/2011)
Sheffield: Sex City (Teatro La Cúpula, Santiago, Chile, 2012)
Sheffield: Sex City at Pulpwiki

“At the age of twenty-two, newly graduated and without a clear plan in life, I moved to Sheffield. It wasn’t a city I knew well, and there was no particular reason to move there other than that I knew someone with a room to spare. I was also a big fan of the band Pulp, and their song Sheffield: Sex City had led me to believe that the city held a promise of sorts.” Jon McGregor – ‘On Pulp, Sheffield, and learning a trade’

Sheffield is like another woman, a soft umbrella under which all his stories play out. Sheffield is all encompassing, taunting cheekily, inviting us out or telling us to stay in. I wanted to be there when I heard this song, so I moved there! – Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes in The Guardian

“When I was 16, I and my girlfriend were completely obsessed by this song, and we walked around willing ourselves to see the teeming, simmering, carnal city described, peering into the L-shaped windows of the tower blocks, past the twitching curtains of the semis, imagining the couplings and perversions inside.”Owen Hatherley, ‘Uncommon’

“The morning after My Legendary Girlfriend. Trying to get things done but ending up on a tour round the fleshpots of Sheffield in a T-reg Chevette. Wybourn, Brincliffe, Intake – All these places really exist and maybe these adventures still happen there – I wouldn’t know; I don’t live there anymore.”Original sleeve notes

It sounds like a terrible idea. A misfit northerner gasping and groaning his way through an eroticised description of his hometown over an electro-funk backing? The keyboard player reading a section from a book of erotic fantasies in a flat Sheffield accent? Experimental sound & stereo production? An eight-and-a-half-minute-long b-side with no chorus? What could lead professional musicians to embark on such a folly?

In reality, though, we all know Sheffield: Sex city is nothing short of monumental. Since you’re reading this I expect it means as much to you as it does to those quoted above – I know it does for me – and if it weren’t for the after-the-watershed content and the running time I think we all know it would be as well-known as ‘Babies’ or ‘Do you Remember The First Time?’. Somehow, though, it’s even more than that. It’s a song that deserves to have a time and a place associated with it, or even better a film – A night in Sheffield, as directed by Antonioni or Żuławski – and even then it would be simply too big. It inspires not only dreams, but art, literature, life decisions. In only one way is it disappointing; after dreaming so big, all that’s left is the comedown.*

For a dream, though, S:SC can seem awfully brutal at times. At its darkest the song seems like a partial re-write of Blue Glow, in which the very buildings seemed like enemies or traps, mazes to become lost in. Sheffield is out to get him – primarily by erecting barriers – walls – between people who could otherwise join together to break this artificial alienation. There are also echoes of This House Is Condemned – the narrator is “sentenced to three years in the housing benefit waiting room.” This Sheffield is looming and oppressive, the home of the darkness of the 1980s, the place he had to escape.

These moments are little more than shards of memory, though. If the song has an overarching narrative it’s constructed in a dream logic. Perspectives continually shift, little threads of half-remembered detail keep weaving through. “The fares went up at 7” refers to the famous pricing policy of Sheffield busses, but in context it makes as much sense as someone babbling in their sleep. These fragments of narrative add to the feel of a sweeping overview – are these the same characters or just vignettes of a city with a thousand stories?

In some ways you could be forgiven for feeling the city is being mocked; even the title itself is a parody of the “Steel City” slogan. The listing of districts sounds like an imitation of advertisements for new estates in the 50s and 60s, when places like Park Hill and Kelvin were a physical representation of the future – “streets in the sky”. By the 1990s, of course, these developments were poorly maintained and regarded by many (not all of course, park Hill his now listed and renovated) as a sad indictment of the city’s decline. It would be tempting to think, then, that the Proustian sensory experiences of S:SC are some kind of joke, but if they are then the joke is played so straight that there’s no choice but to take it seriously.

Jarvis could never have written S:SC while he remained in in his hometown. The dream-picture of the city is from the nostalgic viewpoint of an expat or an exile. Most of the group still remained in Sheffield, and it must have been odd for them to have this sudden shift in perspective. A place you live in is the background hum in your head – you tune it out, and only notice it when it’s gone. Some things can only be viewed clearly, then, from outside – the exotic, the familiar, the eternally unknowable. Sheffield is a woman, a lost love, and S:SC is a dirty love letter to her. At times this is even physically represented – in one enduring image he actually “makes love to a crack in the pavement” – but on the whole the femininity of the city is present in its very spaces. The sexualised city is at once a physical place and one that lives in people. The derelict factories, the dead, sterile new estates are in fact living and sentient, teeming with people, all with their own stories, but all part of one greater entity. At times you can feel the weight of this, the oppression of Blue Glow or Being Followed Home, but when this entity is a friend the physical spaces become a vast playground for the lovers, and their actions are amplified so much that passion and orgasm are converted into destruction, collapsing buildings, the whole street dying of lung cancer. How could it not?

As an improvised piece of spoken word on top of an instrumental track, Jarvis’s performance here exceeds any reasonable expectations, sounding at times tormented, flirty, pathetic, lost and ecstatic. Ed Buller’s production helps, of course, most importantly in bringing the mic so close that it sounds (especially at the start) that he’s whispering in your ear.

This is hardly a one-man show, however – the track was a jam at first, and the fact that the Babies single also included an instrumental mix demonstrates that the words were essentially an afterthought. In a way you could say that the track is Candida’s finest moment – as well as taking a lead with her Ray Manzarek plays Stereolab keyboards, she joins in with a reading from a book of women’s erotic fantasies compiled by Nancy Friday.

SSC

So convincingly deadpan is the reading that you naturally imagine she’s recounting her own experience of living in a concrete tower-block looking out onto a thousand identical windows, wondering what was going on behind the curtains. Never the most outgoing of people, Candida seems to have been too embarrassed to perform this live, and it was therefore cut out (in the 90s) or replicated with a recording (on the reunion tour). Later on she joins Jarvis on a call-and-response section around the stereo space – I don’t have a lot to say about this, but it’s wonderful nonetheless.

Steve Mackey – that other exile from the North – plays an important role here too, his steady bassline brought down to a throbbing sub-woofer heartbeat by Warp’s in-house producer Zebedee. The production throughout is refreshingly minimal – Buller adding as few layers as possible in order to produce a meandering live feel to replicate the meandering dream-like narrative. Nick is somewhere out there, continuing discreetly, while Russell’s violin is only audible at certain moments, and is used essentially as a condiment, sparingly.

As a representation of what Pulp were, what they could do, what they could say, Sheffield: Sex City works as well as anything else they’ve done – perhaps even more-so, as you couldn’t imagine anyone else producing anything like this.

“There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” – Closing narration to Naked City

*As a corollary of that, I have a question; how can the creators of this have not gone on to create astounding books or films? The only obvious thing to blame is the comfort zone people find themselves in when the struggle to make yourself heard is finished and won. Still, as much fun as Jarvis’s solo LPs and the Pulp reformations have been, I think we’re all a little disappointed that there hasn’t been more substantial work since 2002.