Amazed That They Exist: Hatherley on Pulp

I’ve just reviewed Owen Hatherley‘s book Uncommon, about the Sheffield pop-rock band Pulp, which was a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.

Update: Interesting feedback this afternoon with people on social networking etc challenging my claim that rave changed the world more than indie. I should have written more, I think, about how the two genres have mixed, and that the best artists use elements of both: Primal Scream, Alabama 3, Gorillaz. As Kerrie Grain says on Facebook: ‘Without bands like New Order and Stone Roses, who combined the two, it’s arguable that dance and dance culture wouldn’t have had the impact they did.’


4 Responses to “Amazed That They Exist: Hatherley on Pulp”

  1. Helen Says:

    (sorry for commenting here, couldn’t find the facility on 3am, if, indeed, it exists)

    I would disagree that dance changed the world more than indie, almost as strongly as I disagree with the notion that Labour swept to power in 1997 “on the back of” the D: REAM song.

    There is as much watered down commercial dance which owes a debt to DJ Shadow and Orbital as there is pissy indie which can trace its origins back to Pulp and several generations of indie before them. Neither genre is superior or without it’s retrospective flaws.

    Pulp wrote some beautiful songs, musically and lyrically (if you’re in a bind to find one, I’d suggest Death Goes To The Disco from the B sides collection), that were and remain exceptionally evocative of a time in british societal history but this trait they hold in common with many indie bands and many (at the time) underground dance music outfits. Neither dance or indie music in the mainstream are capable of that any more but that’s not a failure if history, it’s a problem with now.

    (to which an obvious solution is perhaps not to be as old and out of touch as me – I don’t doubt that music as personal and heart-swelling exists now, it’s just not intended for me to hear).

  2. maxdunbar Says:

    I don’t know why people can’t comment at 3:AM. I think we should open comments but it’s not my decision. You make some interesting points though.

    I do think that dance changed the culture more than indie, because the mainstream had to accommodate dance culture to some extent to get people out of the fields and back in the town centres, spending money. My point about D Ream was that the fact New Labour used it as a campaign song illustrated how deeply rave culture penetrated the mainstream. There is of course loads of pedestrian dance. But to me indie was about staying in one place, dance was about moving on. Really subjective I know, but all writing on music is going to be subjective!

  3. Nelson Says:

    Like Helen, I came here because of that 3 am review. There was a heated discussion about Owen Hatherley’s book a few days ago in the Guardian. I had to stop reading the comments, there is something about Guardian readers that turns them into crazy fanboys/girls whenever the names Albarn, Morrissey, Bono, and Jarvis pop up. Pop music is mostly about fandom anyway. I’ve read Mr. Hatherley’s blogs about architecture so I find it a bit off he’s writing a book about Pulp. I even read a tweet that he’s not in favor of a Pulp reunion, yet he timed his book release during their reunion dates.
    I’m not too familiar with any Pulp records beyond Different Class, which I thought sounded too Casio keyboard heavy than Britpop. They could be touring with Boomtown Rats in the 70’s. My hs teacher ( a pop music critic) once said that Pulp’s work were better read than heard and their lyrics were often quoted than listened to. I kinda agree. There’s a certain timelessness to Jarvis’s commentary. I’m not even British. Right now I’m listening to Cocker’s 6music show on iplayer and he’s discussing Simon Reynold’s book “Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past” (how timely). Should be interesting what he has to say about reunions and pop’s influence. As for Pulp’s or Britpop’s impact or importance to culture, I can’t comment on it. Britpop landed on my ears just recently. I’ll just leave Jarvis’s own words which I found on my girlfriend’s messageboard signature:

    “I never said I was deep, but I am profoundly shallow
    My lack of knowledge is vast, and my horizons are narrow
    I never said I was big, I never said that I was clever ”
    There, Mr. Hatherley, the man does not want to be canonized. He just wants to write songs about sexual fantasies and betrayal, which Mr. Dunbar finds too icky because he’s already 30…hehehe.

  4. Jenny Says:

    I only have their greatest hits album but I like Pulp myself.

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