While a media-created class war was beginning to be played out between spitting northerners Oasis and shandy-drinking southerners Blur, the real war was being fought by the oft-underestimated third horse of Britpop – Pulp. Unlike the simple tabloid rivalry of Blur and Oasis, Pulp were seen to represent not just the working class, but geeks and mis-shapes everywhere.
After years in the wilderness (they released their first album in 1983, but only reached a more mainstream audience with their 1994 album, His ‘n’ Hers) Jarvis Cocker and co. were catapulted to fame by two things: replacing The Stone Roses as Glastonbury 1995 headliners at the last minute and the success of the single, ‘Common People’.
The aforementioned single, ‘Common People’, remains a brilliant social comment. I’m sure many students can sympathise with the lyric, “when you’re laid in bed at night/watching roaches climb the wall/if you call your Dad he could stop it all”. Different Class is about real life, leaving out no detail too mundane or disgusting, and left Jarvis Cocker with the status of an indie superhero, due to his intelligent lyrics and fearless delivery, shrieking and whispering at will. To some, Cocker was more than a perceptive lyricist; he became a sex symbol, unlikely for a lanky man with large glasses.
If class was the advertised theme of this record, the real subject which defines Different Class is sex. Cocker sounds at times as if he is delivering his sultry, sizzling Sheffield slur whilst breathing down your neck. His commentary is often humorous, but there is a dark side to his stories. For example, ‘Pencil Skirt’ tells the tale of a man (probably Cocker, the mucky pup) seeing a woman behind her partner’s back, but somehow there remains warmth to his character. When he claims, “I’ll be around when he’s not in town/I’ll show you how you’re doing it wrong”, you can’t help but think you would probably let him get away with it.
The record feels expertly crafted throughout and remains relevant despite the fifteen years following its release. Every track is distinctive enough to be a single, yet quirky and individual enough to be more than just a catchy pop song. It is grimy without being distasteful, although perhaps in a less enlightened era Jarvis would have been neutered or burnt at the stake.