Pulp - His 'n' Hers

IT HAPPENS halfway through 'Acrylic Afternoons': as Jarvis Cocker pants and pig-squeals through this saga of suburban snoggery and the violin squiggles in the corner, you suddenly realise that what should be an hysterical farce a la 'Ooops Vicar. Where's My Trousers' is actually a discomforting, rather nasty piece of work. And you're not quite sure whether or not you like this Cocker bloke. Halfway through 'Have You Seen Her Lately', amid the howls of "No, don't go round to see him tonight/He's made such a mess of your life," you're not quite sure if you like yourself.

Such is the sordidness of Pulp's Woolworthless world. However, the fact that 'His'N'Hers' should flirt with the kind of commercial nous more applicable to, say, flogging ice-cold Evian in the middle of the Sahara, is either a) testament to Pulp's ability to nail down the human psyche, or b) simple proof that we're a nation of perverts. With a nice side, of course.

Because while Jarvis may groan on about teatime sex and sleazy adolescent experiences, he still comes across like Jilted John Travolta, the geek in the bad dancing shoes who couldn't actually harm you even if you demanded the social comforts of a binliner, a yard of flex and a bowl of fruit.

Which is why 'Happy Endings' is quite excellent, a sweeping ballroom extravaganza with lovely '70s disco gurgles and genuine Eurovision class, sealed by Cocker's admirable inability to hit all the correct high notes. Which is why 'Have You Seen...' is even better, a tripped-out melange of melodies and emotion which - like all great pop songs - dares to aim for vertiginous heights normal bands barely envisage. And which is why 'Lipgloss' and, in particular, 'Babies' retain a sense of head-spinning grandeur after countless plays.

For an over-decade sensation, Pulp sound implausibly fresh and indecently frenzied. The fact that the wildly indulgent paean to holidays of the past, 'David's Last Summer', brings to mind nothing less glorious than Bobby Goldsboro's seminal 'Summer (The First Time)' proves that Pulp have both an acute eye for seemingly banal detail and a grasp on timeless songcrafting.

Not all our lives are like Readers' Wives: that's why Ride didn't think of making a film about personalities losing their virginity. But 'His'N'Hers' mixes the venom of the voyeur with the flamboyance of the flirt so naturally that one can only writhe around the shag-pile wondering when on earth the record's main protagonist is going to be awarded his own Viz cartoon strip. 'Jarvis Cocker, The Sleazy Rocker'? Yip!

Who was that Brett geezer anyway?


Simon Williams