Released a few months after their second-best album, this contains one of Pulp’s best songs (“Babies”), one of Pulp’s best choruses (“Seconds”) and some of Jarvis Cocker’s better social commentary (“His ‘N’ Hers”).
The remaining song – “Your Sister’s Clothes” – is a sequel to “Babies” set four years later, but the instrumental sounds like Philip Glass bullied into the shinier, louder Britpop era. “His ‘N’ Hers” is more problematic. The musical elements all work – the bright carny colours from Candida Doyle’s keyboard; the driving guitar riff; the insistent beat throughout; the aforementioned lyrics (more on that later) – but the momentum needs work. How the loud, sustained synth in the choruses gets pulled away (not unlike how the beat stops often in hip-hop to point to what’s being rapped; “New Slaves” off the top of my head but dozens of others) sounds amateurish, and the delivery of the main hook (“His and – herrrrrrrrs”) could’ve done without that brief pause/inhale. As for the commentary, Jarvis Cocker listing things he’s frightened of while in bed with a woman is fantastic when you realize it’s a takedown of suburban life, “I’m frightened of Belgian chocolates / … of pot pourri / … of James Dean posters / … 26” screens / … of remote controls”, culminating in “I’m frightened of evenings in the brincliffe Oaks searching for conversation.” But he’s being so fucking histrionic about it, like he had just finished listening to certain Prince songs (the awful way he squeezes out the ‘s’ sound on “figurines”) but he ain’t no Prince; I can’t help but think a normal Jarvis Cocker delivery would’ve suited the finale significantly better (think: “I Spy”). But “Seconds” could’ve replaced one of the lesser cuts on the proper album; the choruses offer one of Cocker’s best melodies, supported by the moving guitar line. And because Cocker is someone who speaks much more than he sings, you really don’t think he can make the leap between “And still it feels like the morning” and “And at night they try to fly…” but he does, and it’s fantastic. Also, “The seconds turn to hours / And the hours turn into days / But still it feels like the morning” is a great lyric.
And “Babies” might be the best song in Pulp’s catalogue, and while it’s understandable why a song with a chorus like “I wanna take you home / I wanna give you children” might not get spun as much as “Common People,” it really does deserve just as much attention. Apparently, the song’s main riff was born out of the band rehearsing and trying other instruments, and Nick Banks (drummer) played that little figure on guitar (but played it slightly off-key) that the band developed it into something more. And the song’s lyrics might match “This Is Hardcore” or “Help the Aged” as Cocker’s most sexual; him and a girl sneaking into the girl’s older sister’s wardrobe to listen to the older sister have sex (“’Cos she was two years older / And she had boys in her room” culminating in the pre-chorus hook, “I listened outside, I heard her – alright!”). But it’s the climax that’s the best part, wherein, the older sister catches Cocker in the voyeurism act and the two go at it and get caught by the first sister, to which Cocker perfectly delivers an excuse only he could dream of: “I only went with her ‘cause she looks like you, My God!”