Junk shop King Of All Misfits, the four-eyed Peter Stringfellow and now the Alan Titchmarsh of rock. As flowers explode on the big screens, enter Jarvis Cocker: Messianical Gardener. He’s here to sing of trees and birds and sunrises and water features in general; to rummage further through the undergrowth of anti-fashion as if willing us to turn on him and call him nonce. Fat chance – Jarvis is the only man on earth who could admit to being a fan of Harry Potter and get away without a faceful of housebrick.
See, it’s all in the wryness, the dryness, the cod-shyness. ‘We Love Life’ – like it’s predecessor ‘This Is Hardcore’ – is a creep-up classic, the kind of album that knocks about in the back of your record collection being modestly majestic for a few months before superglueing itself to your CD tray and claiming you as its bitch. Tonight Pulp use its insidious charms to draw a veil over their frivolous, arse-waggling perv-pop past. This is more ‘Pulp: The Pastoral And The Perverse’, eschewing ‘Common People’ and ‘Disco 2000’ for ‘Life”s ecstatic odes to landscaping and the album tracks that go squelch in the night: ‘Live Bed Show’, ‘The Fear’, an obscure country and vest-ern B-side called ‘Laughing Boy’ and ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G. C.A.L.L.E.D. L.O.V.E’.
What the gig of the year lacks in pouting pop razzmatazz though, it makes up in delicious deviance. The defiant military stomp of ‘Weeds’ sounds like the United Front Of Bedwetters marching on The Hague, ‘Bad Cover Version’ (with its spite-fuelled List Of Rehashed Crap) is the Christmas Number One with a gun in its belt and as ‘Sunrise’ reaches its wig-out climax, Jarvis needs only a ten-foot lasso microphone and bubble perm and he (I)is(I) Roger Daltrey. The triumvirate of ‘Babies’, ‘Underwear’ and ‘Party Hard’ round things off in a flurry of tossed gladioli.
The achievement is mighty: from the stuff of Ground Force, Pulphave wrung tearful genius. But then Jarvis could be here next year in a grubby boiler suit plugging an album called ‘Pulp Love Grouting’ and he’d still be God.