Tag Archives: water features

#93 – Going Back to Find Her

1 Jun

bocking-87limit-05

Going Back To Find Her (Live, 3rd March 1987 – The Limit, Sheffield)
Going Back To Find Her (Cover by LeoVK)
Going Back To Find Her at Pulpwiki

“In Jarvis’s book, love is a never-ending David Lynch film – songs like ‘Going Back To Find Her’ are as black as pitch. Pulp want to be as horribly compelling as a circus freak show” – Bob Stanley in the NME

We don’t have that many songs to talk about in this era – just eighteen, compared to the forty or so from the ‘Freaks’ era’, so entry into the Pulp cannon seems to be easier than it was before. In theory, this could mean that substandard material could easily have crept onto ‘Separations’, and it’s testament to the judgment of the group that it didn’t, that we have – finally! – a great album from start to finish. It was a close-run thing, though – from the ten tracks considered, nine made it, the other one being ‘Going Back To Find Her’. In an interview for ‘Truth and Beauty’ Nick Banks explained its non-inclusion.

“From what I remember it was similar to ‘Down By The River’, a sort of down-tempo, acousic-y sort of song, and you don’t want too many of them, do you? You want a bit of variety, so it was like ‘This one or that one? This one.’

On initial impressions two things come to mind – firstly that the choice between DBTR and GBTFH was so much down to the wire seems very odd indeed, DBTR being much more worked-out and finished. This is a judgment based on an unfair comparison, however – DBTR never sounded particularly impressive in a live setting, and it took Alan Smythe’s production to bring out the subtle magic of the piece. With GBTFH, early live versions are all we have.

Secondly, it seems self-evident that GBTFH and DBTR are very different sounding songs, and that ‘downtempo’ and ‘acousic-y’ are not obvious adjectives to describe the rather jaunty number from 1987 live sets. With an odd 1-2-1-2 rhythm, it occupies an otherwise-unexplored mid-ground between a Cossack march and a camp glam stomper, and is dominated by Russell’s sarcastic guitar licks and Candida’s chiming keyboard sound. The interplay between the guitar, keyboards and bass is actually quite pleasant, but for something so built around a rhythm, you can’t help but wish the bass line could be beefed up to push the whole thing along. With Steve Mackey on board for the LP sessions, this was very much possible, so once again we might not be hearing the track’s full potential here.

Where the two songs are similar is their theme. Once again we’re using grim metaphors to discuss the perils of returning to a failed relationship for one more try – we even have a line about “her house was by the river.” This time, though, he’s really just going through the motions of this compulsion. Every line describes the relationship in the most unpleasant way possible – “someone who will prop me up / and someone who I’m master of” – and when he sings “I don’t really want to find her” you can more than believe it’s true. If this issue so ‘over’, the question of ‘why bother singing about it’ tends to arise, so it’s understandable that they wouldn’t want two songs about it on the same LP – it would start to look like Jarvis doth protest too much. Choosing between the two, the backing track makes all the difference – GBTFH being a little too jolly for the somber theme.

Is Going Back To Find Her good enough to go on Separations? Truthfully, it’s hard to say. The fact that it wasn’t included on the remastered version of Separations in 2012 indicates that it was probably never demoed to completion, and for that reason it will probably continue to be consigned to the ‘nice idea, not quite finished’ file for the foreseeable future.

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#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.

#29 – Sink or Swim

7 Apr

Sink or Swim
Sink or Swim on Pulpwiki

When is the best time to write about a song? Perhaps it’s with the clarity of a first listen, when everything is fresh to your ears. Perhaps it’s after a long process of becoming accustomed to its nuances and details. One thing is for sure – the best moment is probably not when you’ve just developed a strange obsession with it and are listening to it on repeat. Love is blind, as somebody or other said. And what less likely song is there to fall for than “Sink or Swim” – a not particularly remarkable song justifiably left off ‘It’? But here we are anyway.

The first recording of Sink or Swim, and the reason I’m writing about it now and not later, is that it was recorded earlier that year for the “Spice” demo, though it was then called “Taking The Plunge.”* It’s one of a series of songs on the theme of taking your first steps in the adult world, later to include ‘Looking For Life’ and ‘Joking Aside’. That only one of these songs made it onto the original pressing of the LP was probably not a co-incidence. With all three present it does tend to sound like a concept album – “one Sheffield boy’s struggle to enter the adult world” – and that’s probably not the impression anyone wanted to give. Consequently it was left unmixed until Fire records decided to remaster the album for its 2012 reissue.

On first impressions the song isn’t great. The major weakness is the half asleep cruise ship keyboard line, which unfortunately serves as the intro. Jarvis’s vocals sound at once whimsical and uncomfortable. he keeps slipping into a low croon, emphasising the seriousness of his message – which, unfortunately, isn’t much of a message at all.

I see it’s time for me to take the plunge
Instead of sitting back, Watching everyone
Decisions now affect my future days
But are they right or wrong? Who on earth can say?

Not pretentious, then, just sort of ponderous and uninspired. It’s pretty much all a litany of half-arsed mistakes until David Hinkler’s trombone appears, somehow tying the melody together into a thing of wonder. It’s something of an illusion – sometimes you hear it, sometimes you don’t – just a moment of harmony that sounds incredible. I’ll wade through the thing a hundred times to hear that moment. Maybe I’ll be bored with it next week, but for now it’s caught me.

*It’s rumoured that the version on the reissue is from the Spice demo rather than the unmixed re-recording.