Jarvis Cocker’s work with Pulp during the Britpop era did much to keep class in the public consciousness at a time when it was being written-out of the rhetoric of New Labour, and barely noticed by the Britpop crowd who were getting high on the hype of “Cool Britannia”. If this will be the theme of a “reformed” Pulp then it will a welcome return.
Cocker’s social commentary had its fair share of revolutionary sentiment. On ‘Different Class’, Cocker conjures up the image of a disadvantaged people rising up to claim what they feel is theirs — “Just put your hands up, it’s a raid! We want your homes. We want your lives. We want the things you won’t allow us”.
Elsewhere, he voices a bitter working-class man who seethes with contempt for his bourgeois “betters” and plots his revenge: “I can’t help it, I was dragged up, my favourite parks are car parks, grass is something you smoke, birds are something you shag, take your year in Provence, and shove it up your arse.”
Other lyrics don’t just demand a “revolution” granted to the working class by the bourgeoisie. from above, but describe the working class seizing the means to achieve change. This comes across most strongly on ‘This is Hardcore’ and ‘The Day After The Revolution’, where he scoffs at the old mantra “the meek shall inherit the Earth” by spitting “The meek shall inherit absolutely nothing at all, if you stopped being so feeble you could have so much more”, and purring “the revolution begins and ends with you”.
A belief in the power of the working class is also evident in ‘Glory Days’, where he laments “Oh, we were brought up on the space race, now they expect you to clean toilets, when you’ve seen how big the world is, how can you make do with this”.
Pulp had their couple of years of media hysteria thanks to the single ‘Common People’, a tale of the misplaced fascination of the upper classes with the working classes. It was a hit stuck between the end of the Thatcher era and the beginning of the Blair years. The tenor of the times was evident in the songs. Perhaps Cocker’s most weary, remorseful outlook on British politics is ‘The Last Day of the Miners’ Strike’. “The last day of the miners’ strike was the Magna Carta in this part of town” he sings, hinting that futures are fixed and possibilities are narrowed.
So with Pulp’s announced reformation, are we inheriting a band which will serenade the class struggle? Perhaps. Cocker is a slippery, intriguing character, whose musical output is sporadic and hard to pin down. Maybe it’s a mistake. If it is then enjoy Pulp’s back catalogue, which has some nuggets of gold — songs that depict the drudgery of working-class life and calls for the emboldening of and the realisation of the potential of the working class.