Let's talk "This Is Hardcore" for a minute, shall we?
I haven't always liked this album. In fact, when it first came out I hated it with a firey passion. Pulp had never been my cup of tea, but this one was so full of itself, had such an air of pretension, was just so over the top I couldn't deal with it. A few friends of mine at school turned it into one of our many music related long running jokes. "This is hardcore." "No, THIS is hardcore." "No, no, no - THIS! IS! HARDCORE!". And so on.
A few years later - while waiting in line to see Robbie Williams I believe - the conversation turned to Pulp and, specifically, this album. I was with a group of Pulp fans and they were arguing its merits against "Different Class", and the conversation had me fascinated. The album they were describing and the album I remember were not the same. I wanted to hear their "This Is Hardcore", because it sounded amazing.
The next day, one of said friends lent me her copy and I rushed home to put it on and fall in love. Except, I didn't. Sure, I liked it more than I remembered, but I still didn't hear what they heard. "It's a grower," they said. Sure, I guess...I mean, over the course of a few years I had gone from despising it to not minding it if it was on in the background, but I certainly couldn't see myself reaching for it, needing to hear it like they did.
Gradually, though, that's exactly what happened. A few months later I came across a used copy - with "This Is Glastonbury" bonus disc - relatively cheap and figured what the hell. At least if I decided to get rid of it, it probably wouldn't be too difficult and I might end up making some money on it. [Taking a minute to check eBay, a copy just sold for a whopping 99 cents so I guess that was a poor investment...was it to turn monetary, that is.] Anyways, I put it on again and liked it a little more.
Over the years, it has grown on me more and more until a few years ago, I had that magic listen. You know the one - the one where everything clicks and you finally get it. The one where you get why an album is so special, where it reveals enough of itself and allows you to love it. Whatever I was missing before made itself known, and I fell in love. Hard [core, sorry]. Mostly, that is. I wasn't sure about the last third of the album - 'Seductive Barry' on, and now typing that I didn't get 'Seductive Barry' seems absolutely silly since it's so FUCKING FANTASTIC.
Anyways, I got most of it. Tonight, I finally got the rest. 'Seductive Barry' had revealed itself to me a while ago, but I was still missing the point of the final trio. "They just don't fit," I'd think, and go back to the beginning...or pretend that 'This Is Hardcore' CD1 the single was the last part of the album, because the flow of 'Ladies' Man'/'The Professional'/'This Is Hardcore [End of the Line Remix]' made a better end in my head.
Now I get it, though. "This Is Hardcore" is an album of three parts. 'The Fear' through 'Help the Aged' is the call to the party, if you will. 'This Is Hardcore' through the first half of 'Seductive Barry' is the party itself, with the long meandering last half being the come down. The album ends with the part I didn't get - the attempt to save yourself from what you've become in 'Sylvia', the acceptance of what you've become with 'Glory Days' and 'The Day After The Revolution' takes stock of what's left of you now.
Or something like that. It's late and I'm tired, but that's what I took away this time. I can't wait for my next listen to see what jumps out at me then.
"Different Class" may have been the era-defining album for many, but more importantly it's the album that allowed Pulp to make this: their masterpiece and one of the greatest albums - in the sense of a true album, something that is missing more and more these days - of the '90s.
Then you get to the deluxe edition, with a solid set of b-sides and a fascinating set of demos. This is where there's a piece missing, though - the demos sound like they're getting ready to record a completely different album. Many could've been on a "Different Class II", which they clearly decided not to make. So I'm not sure how they got from there to what ended up on the album. Maybe demos of some of the album tracks would help fill that in or maybe there's another set of demos out there that didn't make it, I have no idea. As great as the deluxe edition is - and it's pretty friggin great - I'd love something like a Rhino Handmade edition of this one. [Yeah, right.]
As for everything else they've ever done, I could take it or leave it. It is how it is.