London Highbury Garage
And now, from the arena of The Walking Dead, the live album....
AND NOW, FROM THE ARENA OF The Walking Dead, the live album.
Pulp have always enjoyed a loving relationship with Glastonbury. Their 1995 appearance as The Stone Roses’ last-minute substitute is the kind of showbiz legend that normally involves Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, the point where terminal outsider Jarvis Cocker finally got invited in to inspect the soft-furnishings of every home in Britain. The weather wasn’t bad either.
Given this weird symbiosis, it makes perfect sense that their 1998 rematch should take place in a mud bath littered with broken spirits. As Cocker explains before ‘A Little Soul’, Pulp have spent the past three years in a strange orbit, one of paranoia, disappointment and self-doubt. [I]Aprhs[/I] ‘This Is Hardcore’, then, [I]le diluge[/I]. Spiritual wellingtons required.
Taking seven of the bleaker tracks from this year’s Sunday night set, ‘Live At Glastonbury’ is a special-edition souvenir for the thrillseeker wanting a memento beyond the standard issue trenchfoot package. If, in retrospect, that innocent title sounds like a survivor’s boast, then Pulp have the right to make it, one of the few bands who could take 80,000 people for whom the material world had become but a distant dream and rejuvenate their failing vital signs.
The savage, unflinching empathy of these songs sounds all the more righteous given the circumstances. Starting with the fabulous Jim Steinman melodrama of ‘The Fear’ – possibly the grisliest nervous breakdown ever to masquerade as a mainstream pop song – they spin off into the deranged ‘Seductive Barry’, the broken-glass shatter of ‘Party Hard’, and then ask that question: [I]”If you didn’t come to party/Then why did you come here?”[/I]. “For certain death,” you can almost hear the happy revellers reply, yet Jarvis himself is always a tonic, and one sure advantage of any Pulp live recording is that it captures him in his element. “Don’t be frightened, it’s only me,” he announces, the physical embodiment of his Uncle Psychosis, and the stars come out again.
Ah, how easy it is to forget that this was the moment where you were standing thigh-high in stagnant water, wondering how long it would take for the bilharzia to kick in. ‘Live At Glastonbury’ is nothing like being there. There can be no stronger recommendation.