Tag Archives: Pulp

King Jeremy the wicked

Thanks to a timely and thought-provoking reminder from Adam at Infantile Disorder, I didn’t miss the twentieth anniversary of the release of Pearl Jam’s Ten.  And while it is never easy to realise that the soundtrack to those once-so-heartfelt teenage rebellions is drifting towards the status of golden oldie, still I am glad to be able to mark the occasion.

Pearl Jam and Nirvana have gifted me my own time machine, as every time I want to feel 15 again a listen to Ten or Smells Like Teen Spirit will transport me straight back.  Back to the frustrations and anger of those years but also the self-belief that somewhere along the way I might have lost, were it not for the music.  Ten still calls to mind the days when this hung over my bed:

Adam’s article rightly pegs grunge as more than music for grotty teens to sneer along to, instead noting that it was

the product of a society that had been through the Reagan-led ruling class counter-offensive of the 1980s, and was now seeing his successor, George Bush Snr, deepen the chasm between rich and poor. The anger of hardcore punk had given way to some despair…

At the time, I seem to remember the grunge scene being derided as not political enough, far too self-absorbed, the product of a generation so dulled by therapy that it could do little more than whine.  All quite possibly true.  Yet the music was also a perfect expression of the unsettling fear that life wasn’t quite turning out to be all it should have been.  The Cold War was won, the upward trajectory was assured, but it didn’t feel all that great, instead there seemed to be little cause for optimism as the end of the century also loomed.

Perhaps the best expression of a similar feeling from a British band came a little later, from those who you maybe wouldn’t initially associate with the great unwashed of Seattle – Pulp – when they sang in Mis-shapes, Mistakes, Misfits:

the future that you’ve got mapped out is nothing much to shout about

Like Jarvis Cocker, both Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder were clever kids, out of place at school and home and wearing their differences heavily.  The so-called ‘cool’ kids at my school hated Pearl Jam and Nirvana, while the rest of us probably loved them even more because of it.  These bands offered a way out of everyday thinking, an escape from cultural cul-de-sacs and seemed the best chance for victory over the forces of ordinary, at least until Kurt turned the anger inwards, like Jeremy in Pearl Jam’s song.

But that would come later.  For now, enjoy this trip in my time machine:

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Filed under The Golden Country

Normal service resumed

In a bar last night, the DJ played Pulp’s Common People and the crowd, a drunken mass of former St Martins sculpture graduates, sang along without a shred of self-awareness to cause them disquiet.  I felt like pointing out that he was singing at them, not for them, that if you called your Dad he could stop it all, you could stop pretending to enjoy yourselves in these dingy bars, where the smoking ban did more harm than good because now there is no fresh nicotine smoke to mask the smell of the bar, and flee to Fulham where you suspect you would secretly be happier and leave me to enjoy Shoreditch the way it used to be before people like you “discovered” it.

Luckily I managed to resist the urge, which is why I am now sitting here typing these words and not in the Royal London having my spleen stitched back together.  It rarely pays to be the one to point out the ironies of the day, just ask Juvenal.  So instead I sit there in seething misanthropy, before fleeing the place to write something nasty about the clientele on the Internet.  Much braver, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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Filed under Miniluv