‘So,’ Alastair Mabbott asks Pulp’s Steve Mackey, ‘how was it for you?’
We should get one thing cleared up at the outset. There are certain nuggets of received wisdom surrounding Pulp that they take great exception to. Bassist Steve Mackey (the newest member. joining in 1988, which gives some hint to the timescale Pulp live in) has one particular misconception he can‘t abide.
‘That we‘re kitsch. We‘re not kitsch. That's the thing that most annoys me; that people think if you don‘t take everything too seriously then you‘re not as meaningful. Because we do things like try to make our sleeves and our videos interesting. and wear certain types oi‘clothes. people think it means there‘s less content. lfanything. it's the opposite. because it means you're thinking about what you‘re doing.‘
The message from the spin doctors ol‘grooviness is loud and clear: this is Pulp's year. Forget Suede. they‘re saying; Pulp have everything that Suede had in the first place. and they‘re cooler. This week anyway. And it can't be denied that Pulp’s debut major label album. His 'n’ Hers, is indeed a many- splendoured thing. The promises made by the singles ‘Lipgloss‘ and ‘Do You Remember The First Time‘?‘ are tnore than kept by singer and lyricist Jarvis Cocker's eleven vignettes of bittersweet experience. teenage fumblings — from a band that’s been in existence a decade! — messy beds and summer parties. And it‘s all wrapped up by a poignant ﬁnal track. ‘David’s Last Summer'. which hangs in the air long after the disc has clicked to a halt.
His 'n' Hers should be displayed at the entrances to record shops with ‘essential purchase‘ stickers
slapped on it. and in many stores it probably will. for Pulp, once the epitome of the struggling indie band. now have the muscle of island Records behind them. And — how‘s this for media overkill? — they‘ve even got a self-made ﬁlm doing the rounds: [)0 You Remember The First 'Ii'rrzef’. wherein celebrities like Jo Brand and Bob Mortimer reveal how, when and to whom they lost their virtue. (Not, sadly. to each other.)
It was puzzling to discover that. after all these years, a major label had signed Pulp. Were they not the band who had been diligently ticking the No : Publicity box of life's coupon every week since the
early 80s? Even Mackey hasn't a clue why it happened.
' ‘l mean. l‘m not saying that we didn‘t deserve it.
but why it happened at that time and not before. you
never know.‘ He concedes. though. that Pulp circa
1992/3 might justiﬁably have been called a better
band than ever before. ‘lf you listen to Pulp in the
80s. a lot of songs were quite dark and depressing.
really. Whereas, in the 90s. we started making a lot
more optimistic-sounding records. and records that
l were easier on people’s ears. There was a time in the past when we were into making abrasive noises and
putting people's backs up. There‘s nothing clever
about that. but at the time it seemed like a good idea. i think we became more in sync with the times.‘
it‘s worth mentioning. too. that both Cocker and Mackey took courses in Film; and that the eventual pop success of Pulp, once denigrated as an art—school hand. might have something to do with their somewhat abstract working methods.
‘Pulp's got a way of doing things because it's been together so long.’ says Mackey. ‘We write songs with
all of us in the rehearsal room. No one comes in and
says. “Listen to this, l‘ve written this great song."
it's quite a nice way of working — it's not too intense and it‘s quite experimental. Quite often. we‘ll go 7 round the band and people‘ll suggest an idea for the
I i i
next song. We’ll often work from an idea rather than a musical thing. someone saying. “it should remind
you of snow falling and it should be uptempo" and
that‘s the only clues you‘ll get. Or. “it should be like a train coming towards you“. We try things like that
2 now and again. i know it sounds silly, but if you
i l I
provide a mood it's much easier than saying “play it in G". The musical notes mean nothing, but the mood of the song suggests something to everybody.‘ Pulp play The Garage. Glasgow ()Il Sun 24.
um- Othcr voices
Just beiore the Maylest assault oi folk and roots music, a Hungarian band plays its only Scottish date in Glasgow. Vasmalom are one of the finest hands you are ever likely to see and hear. Their level of virtuoso musicianship is stunning, with their cimbalon player nothing short oi astonishing on his huge, complex hammered dulcimer. Yet with all their technical command and dexterity, they never lose sight of the meaning oi the music, and the intensity and emotional
t" ‘ _. .‘ . ‘v '8 J A); ‘ rxsig- Ll
commitment at their traditional and original material is protound.
At their last concert in Edinburgh in 1992, they were called back tor encore atter encore, iinally stilling the audience with an incredible love song
duet in three voices, two of them produced by their piper who has learned, in the Mongolian style, to produce two vocal sounds, one a harmonic, at one and the same time!
lead lemale singer Eva Molnar has a clear, expressiver translucent voice that slips between the overtones of llutes, shawrns, bagpipes and fiddle but is equally at home in the complex
modernity at their own compositions.
In a concert usually split in two halves, they reveal their origins in the various vocal and instrumental traditions oi Hungary and surrounding musical cultures, in the second hall pertorming contemporary music using traditional idioms and a mixture at traditional, ethnic and common European instruments in a synthesis that shows their legacy irom Bartok in classical training, musical sophistication, stylistic eclecticism and tine sense of tun.
The concert also includes a set lrom Vasmalom’s Scots pals Dick Lee and Hamish Moore, those parlour iconoclasts whose reedy blasts sent a wind oi change scurrying up the dusty corridors of bagpipe convention. in all, a concert that will amaze and delight. (lionnan Chalmers)
Vasmalom and Dick lee and ilamish Moore play iienry Wood ilall, Glasgow on Thurs 28.
The List 22 April—5 May 1994 39