Best albums of 1998: #4 Pulp “This is hardcore”

What do you get when you have a band, especially a talented and misunderstood frontman, that toils for years in obscurity, always hoping and striving for fame, finally reaches its goal with a couple of hit records and massive headline spots at top festivals, only to find out that the fame is not what he/they wanted in the end? You get an album like “This is hardcore”.

Indeed, Pulp’s previous record, their fifth, “Different class” had them out on top, almost two decades after a 15-year old Jarvis Cocker formed the band with his friend Peter Dalton. Pulp had seen multiple personnel changes over 1980s and they struggled mightily, releasing two albums to almost no impact on the music buying public. They started to gain traction with their third album, 1992’s “Separations”, and then, “His ‘n’ hers” truly broke the band in 1994. It’s sort of a chicken and the egg thing with Pulp and BritPop. Nevertheless, the scene’s wave carried the band with it to the pinnacles of fame and still, it seemed, Jarvis and company weren’t happy. The sixth album took a year to record and was a struggle from the beginning, perhaps this was partly due to the departure of long time member Russell Senior but the band persevered and the results were completely worth it.

When I first heard it, I was a bit thrown off as I’m sure a lot of people were. Of course, I was still young and looking for more of that glam rock to dance to and sing along with Cocker’s wry observations on love and sex and life in general. I wasn’t ready for all this jaded maturity and found the music too heavy on inaccessible side of the scale. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and with my own jaded maturity, I can now see “This is hardcore” for the masterpiece that it is. An album that is timeless and stands up to Pulp’s best work.

Sample, if you will, my three picks for you below and let me know your thoughts.


“A little soul”: Songs with titles like this are usually a bit more uplifting, soul or R&B pop tracks that shake it, suggesting that ‘little’ is an understatement. However, Cocker turns this idea on its head with a literal take on its theme. The narrative is of a man speaking to his son, likely not a direct conversation though, just one in his head, as he’s watching him from afar or looking at a photo of him. “You look like me but you’re not like me, I hope. I have run away from the one thing that I ever made.” It’s a tired sounding number, an end of the night ballad, a mellow blues band in an empty, echoing club, Cocker sounding sorrowful and full of regret and though he feels he doesn’t have any soul to share, there’s plenty here.

“Help the aged”: Another song here that’s a bit depressing. If you’re sensing a theme, you’re spot on. Amongst the screaming and searing guitars is Cocker eulogizing youthfulness and imploring the young to truly see seniors and not hide from their own mortality. “You can dye your hair but it’s the one thing you can’t change, can’t run away from yourself.” No, it’s not a charitable song, as its title suggests, but an introspective one. A midlife crisis in song form, rage and sadness in a four minute song rather than a red convertible.

“This is hardcore”: The title track is the epic, six and a half minute centrepiece of the album. The sound is very different from the synth glam of their previous record and Jarvis Cocker uses his usual lurid thematics here as an extended metaphor for how he sees the music industry. It’s a slow burning number, dark and seedy, likely something you might hear in a lower end strip joint while a disinterested performer moves to its crawling beat on the grimy stage. Cocker runs the gamut of hopes and dreams and foreplay to being spent and used in every way possible. ”Oh, this is hardcore. There is no way back for you.” This is a great band at peak form.


Check back next Thursday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Sloan “Navy blues”
9. Cake “Prolonging the magic”
8. Embrace “The good will out”
7. Mojave 3 “Out of tune”
6. Rufus Wainwright “Rufus Wainwright”
5. Manic Street Preachers “This is my truth now tell me yours”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Playlist: New tunes from 2019, part one

I guess it was just a matter of time before playlists became a thing on this blog. The only surprise to me is that it took me this long to break down and post a Spotify playlist to these pages. And I’m already imagining this won’t be the last. Hence, the “part one” adjunct at the end the title above.

These here twenty-five songs are all from albums that have been released in the first three months of 2019 and are amongst my faves from said albums. Indeed, these are the songs that have soundtracked a very long winter up here in Canada’s capital, making my morning and afternoon commutes to and from work that much more bearable.

Highlights include:

      • “Not so proud”, track five off the self-titled debut album by Tallies, a four-piece dream pop outfit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
      • A track (“Dylan Thomas”) by the surprise collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, from the album titled “Better Oblivion Community Center”
      • “Motor city steel”, one of the few highlights off an otherwise disappointing outing from Dandy Warhols, an alternative rock favourite in my books
      • “First world problems”, a song I wanted to hate off Stone Roses’ frontman, Ian Brown’s latest solo effort because its title is oh so millennial… but I just can’t help myself…
      • Reviews have been decidedly mixed for the debut album by (don’t call us a) supergroup Piroshka, who include ex-members of Lush, Moose, Modern English, and Elastica, but I love the single “Everlastingly yours”
      • “Tough enough” by Ex Hex is so so so 1980s in a Go-gos, Bangles, and Pat Benatar kind of way

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

      1. “Not so proud” Tallies (from the album Tallies)
      1. “About the light” Steve Mason (from the album About the light)
      1. “Her cold cold heart” Night Beats (from the album Myth of a man)
      1. “[10 good reasons for modern drugs]” The Twilight Sad (from the album It won’t be like this all the time)
      1. “Seventeen” Sharon Van Etten (from the album Remind me tomorrow)
      1. “Death in midsummer” Deerhunter (from the album Why hasn’t everything already disappeared?)
      1. “Dylan Thomas” Better Oblivion Community Center (from the album Better Oblivion Community Center)
      1. “Motor city steel” The Dandy Warhols (from the album Why you so crazy)
      1. “Sequence one” TOY (from the album Happy in the hollow)
      1. “Spiked flower” Swervedriver (from the album Future ruins)
      1. “Mexican dress” Blood Red Shoes (from the album Get tragic)
      1. “Five on it” Spielbergs (from the album This is not the end)
      1. “First world problems” Ian Brown (from the album Ripples)
      1. “Gallipoli” Beirut (from the album Gallipoli)
      1. “Bellyache” Yak (from the album Pursuit of momentary happiness)
      1. “Everlastingly yours” Piroshka (from the album Brickbat)
      1. “Until the fire” Ladytron (from the album Ladytron)
      1. “Jonatan” Desperate Journalist (from the album In search of the miraculous)
      1. “Pressure to party” Julia Jacklin (from the album Crushing)
      1. “One last night on this earth” Sundara Karma (from the album Ulfila’s alphabet)
      1. “Exits” Foals (from the album Everything not saved will be lost, part 1)
      1. “Woman” Karen O and Danger Mouse (from the album Lux Prima)
      1. “Tough enough” Ex Hex (from the album It’s real)
      1. “Look at you now” Sleeper (from the album The modern age)
      1. “Wasted youth” Jenny Lewis (from the album On the line)

Enjoy.



For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.

Vinyl love: The Charlatans “Us and us only”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Charlatans
Album Title: Us and us only
Year released: 1999
Year reissued: 2019
Details: Limited edition, limited to 1000 copies, Record Store Day exclusive, clear vinyl

The skinny: So perhaps my expectations were unreasonable, as were my hopes that our local stores would somehow manage to track down some of the US and UK exclusives, but I have to admit to a modicum of disappointment with this year’s Record Store Day. Unless you count the free disc I scored with one of my purchases, the only RSD exclusive I picked up today is this one, though I did take advantage of the sales to procure a few records I’ve had my eye on for a while. Still, rather than dwelling on what I didn’t find, let’s have a look at this excellent clear vinyl reissue of The Charlatans’ 1999 album, “Us and us only”, that I did find. One of the many great albums by one of my favourite bands, this release was one of the few bright spots for me in the year it was released. And it sure does sound sweet on vinyl.

Standout track: “My beautiful friend”