“I prefer their early stuff” is a common comment made by a certain kind of music fan. No matter the genre, the most pure-hearted of musos will always have a particular place in their pure hearts for the early days of their favourite band’s repertoire. You know: before it all got sullied by drugs, inter-band affairs and selling out to the record label to chase that big chart hit.
That, of course, is one take on it.
The other take is that, quite often, the early stuff is rather more obscure, less well known, than the big anthem they’ll be playing on Absolute Radio forever and a day.
So it gives us snobs the perfect opportunity (once again) to look down our noses at the poor fools who quite like that song about Pink Floyd not needing no education, but haven’t a clue about Piper at the Gates of Dawn or will happily sing along to Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’ on Radio 2, unaware of the sheer beauty of Asleep in the Back.
Which brings us to Pulp’s Separations and, more crucially, ‘Love is Blind’. Pulp’s peak came in 1995 with Different Class. You know: ‘Common People’, ‘Disco 2000’ and ‘Sorted for Es and Wizz’ – the song which sent the Daily Mirror into apoplexy for its alleged pro-drugs message (because, when Jarvis Cocker sang about the panic and terror of leaving “an important part of my brain somewhere in a field in Hampshire”, that, apparently, was, in his view, a good thing).
But Pulp had been knocking around for ages prior to this. The band actually find their origins back in 1978. Which makes a song released in 1992 actually seem like a mere youngster. Well, a 25 year old youngster.
Pulp’s USP was always their rather grubby take on life – taken to a nigh on pornographic extreme with 1998’s This is Hardcore.
The songs from Separations form part of this dirty narrative with ‘Love is Blind’ setting the scene for the album brilliantly, countering the glory of the first days of love/lust (“The future is shining like a giant metal beast/It shines so bright tonight with its legs open wide”) with the rather more grim, prosaic world in which such a romance blossoms (“In the morning it was all still there/The spilled milk and the dog-turds in that grey ashtray morning light”).
All of which comes with pounding drums, a gorgeously twiddly keyboard motif and, of course, Jarvis Cocker’s inimitable Sheffield drawl.
It’s in songs such as ‘Love is Blind’ that you can find traces of ideas later born out in the likes of ‘Something Changed’, ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E’ and ‘I Spy from Different Class. But because it precedes all those songs, there’s something all the more enticing about ‘Love is Blind’. It’s rawer and somehow purer – in all it grubbiness.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Pulp – and Pulp from any era. But their early stuff? That’s what I prefer.