Record Review: Pulp – After You

Rough Trade | UK | 12" | 2013 | RTRADST699

Rough Trade | UK | 12″ | 2013 | RTRADST699

Pulp: After You UK 12″ [2013]

  1. After You [Pulp vx Soulwax]
  2. After You [original version]
  3. After You [The 4am Desperation Disco To Disco Dub Version]

I was excited when Pulp reactivated in 2011 after laying dormant for a decade and what I assumed was a final split. There were a series of concerts abroad and only in America at Coachella or, even worse, a Coachella Cruise. In other words, I would have to pay serious coin if I ever wanted to see the band give a show. And in any case, I won’t do a cruise ship! Still, when what seems to be the final Pulp single emerged in 2013 for Record Store Day, I naively imagined that it was the first salvo of a renewed recording career. Time has shown this theory to be invalid. This was, instead, one last arrow from the quiver of a band that had spent its ammunition and had walked off of the battlefield for a second time.

“After You” was produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem; an act I’ve been hearing of ever since they surfaced, but I’ve not yet heard. As they have been described as “dance punk” to me that just means New Wave. It was all too right and proper that they linked up with Pulp, one of the last New Wave bands. Though their imperial period was a decade later, New Wave definitely informed their aesthetic, even in the 90s.

Word has it, that “After You” was a song from the “We Love Life” sessions that was never finished. I was surprised by this since the tune has the snarling demeanor of material from the darker “This Is Hardcore” sessions. The sense of self-loathing and hell-bent debauchery in the song was only hinted at in its lyrics, which remained nuanced in their reference to biblical apocalypse via sex and capitalism. The teaser of acoustic guitars at the intro were a ruse as the pulsing basslines and insistent drums revealed a music bed that was strongly redolent of Yello’s “Bostich,” albeit performed on instruments other than just synths.

While the lyrical tone was all about the darker “This Is Hardcore” thematic palette, the arrangement of the song was less plodding than most of that album. It was almost a half-step back to the much more upbeat “Different Class” vibe. The three verse structure gives way to instrumental vamping in the extended outrowhere the Moroder/Yello feel takes over the song after Jarvis Cocker had spoken his peace on the subject.

The 4am Desperation Disco To Disco Dub Version was a straightforward disco dub version with only the phrase “from disco to disco” surgically excised from the original mix as the sole lyrical content. Bringing the music bed front and center only served to exacerbate the song’s resemblance to “Bostich” by Yello. For DJs and completists only.

The Soulwax remix was technically the A-side of the single. It spun at 45 RPM while the other two mixes were relegated to 33. The reductive remix brought the dryly repetitive beat front and center with production touches on the synths that recalled early-mid period Depeche Mode from the time of “Construction Time Again.” That was probably a good decision, due to the mix heightening the decadence of Cocker’s delivery… not unlike that of a certain Martin Gore. The remix yielded to the dance floor after only the first two of the three verses that the song had. Losing the third verse climactic zinger that Cocker delivered in the original version muted the sense of irony that the original version had. The dry, minimal sound here was different enough from the original version, but there was no bettering the original mix since it was the only one here that delivered the full lyrics.

While I’ll miss Pulp, “After You” was, true to its origins, perhaps a half-realized, transitional single, best left off of an album. Originally, it was a free xmas download to the attendees of a December 2011 Pulp concert in Sheffield. And that was just about right for its merits. Having the song reach a wider audience for RSD was a sensible and admirable approach to that often excessive day of commerce. While the resulting song was less than a Pulp classic, it served as a reminder of their prowess at crafting driven, intense pop music. This time with a nod to the dance floor. I’ll miss ’em, but we’ll always have “After You.”

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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