And Jarvis sings the blues...
Pulp aired their first new material since the release of last year’s ‘This Is Hardcore’ LP at a special one-off show at Edinburgh Queens Hall last week (August 31).
They performed six new songs on the last night of the Flux Festival, in a show based on their recent performance at The Biennale Pavilion in Venice, Italy, dubbed ‘A Quiet Revolution’.
The songs were originally composed solely for the Venice show, which accompanied an exhibition by the Turner Prize-nominated artist Gary Hume.
After the Edinburgh gig, their first UK live appearance of 1999, Cocker explained to NME: “We were asked to write some songs to perform in this palace, amongst all these huge chandeliers and delicate ornaments, so we had to write music that would really work at a low volume.
“Once we’d written them, we realised that we wanted to develop them further and play them out in front of real people.”
All the new songs were performed from behind a set of giant Venetian blinds, a pun on their geographical inspiration.
“The whole event was so serious and formal,” Jarvis laughed. “We just wanted to inject a bit of humour into the proceedings.”
As yet only two of the songs have finished titles. One, ‘The Birds In Your Garden’, is an acoustic ballad with chirping bird noises and features the lyrics: “The birds in your garden/They all started to sing your song/Don’t despair it’s alright”.
The other titled song is ‘A Quiet Revolution’, which seems to touch on themes of dealing with growing older and watching friends die and disappear.
Lyrics include surreal late-night ruminations like, “Is this a microwave I see before me/As the clock strikes 3am?” and, “What can I do with the rest of my life/Even though your friends are dropping dead like flies?”.
Another new song to Pulp is a reworking of the bleak country-blues ‘The Coo Coo Song’, first performed by country singer Clarence Ashley. It was rewritten earlier this year by Cocker for Nick Cave‘s Meltdown festival celebration of Harry Smith and his legendary ‘Anthology Of American Folk Music’ LP.
“I felt a bit uncomfortable with covering some of the blues tracks from that collection, doing that whole, ‘Well I woke up one morning’ thing,” Jarvis explained. “So I just adapted the basic song and tried to personalise it a bit more.”
The new lyrics include: “Well the cuckoo is a pretty bird/Sings the sweetest song I ever heard/I thought you’d like to know I still think you’re the most/You left me living here, married to a ghost”.
Other tracks played at Flux included an instrumental which featured glockenspiel and a song dedicated to “the sun coming up” accompanied by a Velvet Underground-style chiming guitar played by Steve Mackey.
The final new track was a Belle & Sebastian-type monologue from Cocker, a bizarre story about the retrieval of a brick from the bottom of a pool thrown there by a teacher.
The rest of the set drew mainly on ‘This Is Hardcore’ and featured ‘TV Movie’, ‘The Fear’, ‘Dishes’ and ‘This Is Hardcore’, alongside ‘Sorted For E’s And Wizz’.
As to whether the songs would feature on a new Pulp record is unclear. Jarvis said they may well point the way forward, though he added: “We’re off to write some new songs with the next record in mind.”