We ask two writers if Pulp should have reformed for festivals next summer.
YES writes Chris Eustace
So Jarvis has finally succumbed to the screams for Pulp songs at his solo gigs, and the reunion is on! Okay, yes, this is another 90’s band reforming. Okay maybe it does show the dearth of newer acts ready to step up and headline our festivals. But this is the line-up of ‘Different Class’, and that Glastonbury, something which some of us have only ever got to experience on Youtube. Pulp did play the first festival I ever went to, Leeds in 2002, but I wasn’t as tall then, and of course there was no Russell Senior either (he’s back for the first time since 1996, and yes that is important).
What makes this so exciting is that it feels right for them to be back, like they’re the last band of their era that could, and should return. Like Blur’s triumphant return two years ago, it doesn’t have to be purely an exercise in making a quick nostalgia buck. The songs still seem relevant now, perhaps even more so. How perfect is ‘Common People’ in an era that has “Call me Dave” Cameron in Number 10? When we’re faced with a choice between perma-tanned, bleached teeth “perfection” and WKD-advert-endorsed laddish/twattishness, it’s funny how the “weirdos” of the world need a rallying call like ‘Mis-Shapes’. With more festivals and festival-goers every year, ‘Sorted For E’s And Wizz’ resonates with many a heavy head.
If a TV channel just played the whole of ‘His ‘n’ Hers’ on repeat every morning, Jeremy Kyle would be out of business within a week, and the latest X Factor reject should be issued with a copy of ‘This Is Hardcore’ after their elimination, and the winner should get a copy when their second single fails too – never has the comedown following huge fame been so desperately recorded (“What exactly do you do for an encore?”). It’s not just the perfect social commentary of their biggest hits, their 90’s albums in whole are artefacts of an era, the mood of each charting that of the nation at the time, the songs hard-wired into people’s brains far more than they realise, and now they also serve as an indictment of how little we’ve changed.
Again, as with the Blur reunion, there’s a feeling of unfinished business, with the band fizzling out after releasing the low-key-but-actually-really-good ‘We Love Life’ in 2001. How thrilling it will be to see that reversed once ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ comes bounding out of the speakers, and we see the preying mantis dancing on the big stage again.
The interest in their reformation will also hopefully spark a critical reappraisal, not just with their last two albums, but also their pre–‘His ‘n’ Hers’ material (any chance of ‘Little Girl With Blue Eyes’ please?). For all their time away their influence has still been felt, clearly Franz, Arctics and newer indie flag bearers like Frankie And The Heartstrings are hugely indebted to them. It might even stir up our new bands – perhaps a new era of amazing, intelligent pop with choruses to match is coming, with new 'indie' pop stars to rival Jarvis? Let’s face it, there’s plenty of stages that need invading at the moment, and Kanye can’t do it all on his own. Let’s all meet up in the Year 2011 (groan, yes had to get that in there) and see what happens…
NO argues Dane Cobain
Oh, Mr. Cocker – why jump on the bandwagon?
You used to be so original, interrupting Michael Jackson at the BRIT Awards almost 15 years before Kanye ruined stage-invasion for everybody. Perhaps you miss the attention – with Oasis disbanded and Blur on another hiatus, there's a Britpop-shaped void for Pulp to slip in to.
A notorious rock 'n' roll icon, Jarvis Cocker dwindled into semi-retirement after Pulp's separation in 2002. Sure, he kept himself busy, writing songs for ‘Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire’ and even appearing in the film as the lead singer of a fictional band. But obscurity doesn't suit him – after releasing his debut solo album 'Jarvis' at the end of 2006, he embarked on a world tour and began working on material for his second album, 'Further Complications', released in May 2009.
But times have changed since Pulp's heyday in the nineties – this year, the common people voted for a Tory-led government, the first time the Conservatives seized power from Labour since the Thatcher era when Cocker was 15. Back in the nineties, a thirty-something Jarvis was just the man to unite the nation with his common touch – now, at 47, Eurostar's cultural ambassador runs the risk of stagnation. Lyrics that were fresh and relevant now seem dated and vaguely ridiculous – when they play their 2011 festival dates, will they still sing “Let's all meet up in the year 2000”?
It’s not that they won't put on a show – with plenty of live experience and a string of hit singles for the group to choose from, Pulp fans have high expectations. They're not out of practice, either – Steve Mackey and Candida Doyle both played with Cocker during his solo career, and the other members haven't been idle.
There's just something wrong about one of the most original bands of the nineties coming back as though nothing has changed. And why bother to reform? In 2007, Jarvis said there was “no barrier other than the fact that at the moment I can't really see a point.” Two years later, The Sun reported that he would decide whether to reform Pulp based on the reaction that Blur received at Glastonbury, quoting him as saying: “It all depends on how much money is on the table.” What happened to making music for the joy of it? Jarvis, you're starting to sound like Sir Alan Sugar.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming after 2002's 'Hits' album, it's a well-known formula – disband when you're out of material, release a 'Best Of' album and reform for another tour when the mortgage repayments become too much. In the last five years, we've witnessed the reformation of Take That, Backstreet Boys, All Saints and The Spice Girls – do we really want our beloved Pulp to join the list? They'll need to come up with something pretty spectacular to avoid becoming a cliché.