This Week's Album Releases: Pulp / We Love Life (Island)

Article excerpt

THE COMMERCIAL failure of 1998's This Is Hardcore left Pulp at something of an impasse, their desire to move on to more demanding territory clearly at odds with their audience's grudging response to Jarvis Cocker's bitter reflections on manhood and maturity. Subsequent sessions aimed at a follow-up album were eventually abandoned, and their results discarded. One can only imagine the mounting consternation at Island Records when the group decided to replace their usual producer, esteemed industry veteran Chris Thomas, with Scott Walker, a reclusive and taciturn artist whose avant-garde leanings render his own albums - to put it kindly - more readily admired than enjoyed.

Well might they be concerned: We Love Life extends This Is Hardcore's mid-life soul-searching even further, its bucolic motifs failing to disguise the underlying mood of ill-tempered disillusion. More worrying still is the apparent dismissal from Pulp's work of the chiming, anthemic melodies that finally hoisted them into the public ear after almost two decades of struggling at the margins. There's no "Common People" among these 11 tracks, and the closest they come to catchy are the maundering single "Trees", a third-form photosynthesis lesson that fell at the first fence upon its release two weeks ago, and "Weeds", which is basically "Mis-Shapes" re- written with a botanical metaphor. Where a more commercially oriented producer might have encouraged them to work a little harder on their tunes, Walker has obviously been employed for the grandiosity of his vision, most clearly reflected in the symphonic melodrama of "Bad Cover Version" - Jarvis's dig at the lover who replaced him - and the overwrought and bombastic "I Love Life", whose air of desperation belies its oft-repeated title claim (which may, I suppose, be its point). …