Of The Modules
Words: Stuart Maconie, Photograph: Ed Sirrs
Taken from the New Musical Express, 21 September 1991
Pulp have waited a very long time to become overnight sensations with their space age disco anthem 'Countdown', but in a world of footwear-fixated fops, things can only get mulch, mulch better, reckons a platform-shod, glitter ball-toting Stuart Maconie.
"Basically, all our songs are about either girls or space. Most of them are about girls but there are one or two about space. The advantage in writing about space is nobody knows about it. Nobody can say the songs are wrong... unless it was Neil Armstrong reviewing us. Then I suppose he might say 'You lot know nothing about space. I've been there and it's nowt like that'."
Pulp are... well, now you're asking something. Pulp are from Sheffield for one, although singer Jarvis and bass player Steve are now decamped in the foul air of the capital. Drummer Nick made his move too, but returned to Sheffield because "l just couldn't get decent television reception in London. l tried sticking a broom handle out of the window with the aerial taped to it but it was still rubbish."
This fact tells you more about Pulp than a million discussions about guitar tuners and influences ever could.
On the other hand, Pulp's least favourite adjective is
'whacky', closely followed by 'kitsch', and you can't blame
them. But then neither can you blame the legion of
journalists who take refuge in those
"You're all into this 'shoe-gazing' stuff aren't you? Doesn't seem too interesting to me, I have to say. Is there something particularly fascinating about their shoes?"
Come to mention it, they're not as fascinating as yours. Jarvis' shoes are sort of burgundy semi-platforms with square toe-ends and scruffy bits. Pulp are very much their own men where fashion is concerned. Life for them is an endless quest for Bri-Nylon.
Jarvis: "I like the idea that Bri-Nylon was going to be the fabric of the future. This fantastic, durable stuff rather than this rubbish that gave you a rash. The one-piece Bri-Nylon never really took off in the way that the makers of Space 1999 thought it would. That's because in Space 1999 no one ever got an embarrassing stain on their groin where they hadn't quite shaken their thing properly."
Pulp are a band with an eye on the future. They cite 'the future' as one of the prime influences on their archly naive glitter pop. But first, the past. Pulp have been around for the best part of a decade, struggling to master their instruments, struggling to not be normal, and watching bands much duller than themselves achieve fame with music not half as rampantly gaudy as their space-age disco.
After some time dormant, Pulp returned earlier this year with the extraordinary 'My Legendary Girlfriend', a single that set all the NME fops alight with its grid references to Scott Walker and Donna Summer. Add to this a series of funny, free-spirited, extravert gigs and suddenly Pulp were back on the agenda again. Now they have a new single out, 'Countdown', a taster for a semi-mythical, now imminent album.
Pulp fit in practically nowhere. Nothing could be further from Pulp's minds than swathes of incandescent guitar and ecstatic drug bliss. And yet they believe that their time might well have come.
Steve: "We seem to be getting a lot of young people at gigs at the moment. I'm not sure why but it's very nice. Nice to see the young 'uns enjoying themselves. I think times might be changing in our favour. I think people want a bit of fun and a bit of glamour again."
Jarvis: "I quite enjoy being the object of young people's affection. They come along for a bit of guidance, a bit of advice in these difficult times. Actually, they come with their parents. They say to them 'Hey, these are great aren't they?' and their mums and dads say 'Oh aye, they were great when we saw 'em at the Leadmill in 1982!'
One aspect of fame is less palatable, however, as Nick points out.
"We've started getting these people coming up after gigs saying 'Hey, I think we're doing something very similar to you. Give us your number 'cos we're trying to set up a kind of co-operative network for local bands'. Get stuffed! I'm not giving my number to some squat punk with a dog on a bit of string!"
Pulp shows are not the sad line-up of dopey posh kids with centre-partings that passes for entertainment these days. Pulp spend gig days assembling cheap but effective home-made stage designs and preparing their finely tuned repartee. Yes, Pulp talk between numbers!
Nick "Well, you ought to talk between numbers. It's common politeness, if you don't you're just being ignorant. Besides, if they think the group's crap, at least they can think 'Never mind. At least there'll be some funny talking in a bit'."
Pulp think interviews are for talking about 'interesting things', not for discussing what their songs are about, I tell them that people pay good money to buy glossy magazines in which such matters are discussed.
"Yeah, but those sort of people should be in Rampton, shouldn't they?" remarks Steve with icy callousness. So, Pulp, one of the funniest groups I have ever met, prefer to talk about the Danish Netto's supermarket chain, currently wowing the north with their extra-low prices. "One white sliced loaf and three tins of beans for 83 pence: You can't argue with those sort of prices."
So why don't you write a song about them, eh? I am met with three hard stares.
"Because that would be whacky."
Point taken. Eh, kids?