On Friday, I offered my own take on of Pulp's platinum-selling fifth album, Different Class. While the references to social classes (working class, middle class, etc.) are plain to see in songs like Common People and I Spy, there are several other songs on the album that don't seem to have any relation to the class theme at all.
But I'm halfway through arguing that actually, every song on this album draws a line between people; it's us versus them every step of the way and whether it's nerds vs. bullies (as on Mis-Shapes), the sexually active vs. the not so sexually active (Live Bed Show), or just upper class vs. lower class, the record is rife with examples of people being put in categories. The characters that populate these songs (and the monochrome people on the front cover) are the misfits, the singletons, the burnouts, and the people who never really had a chance, and they're all looking to change their lives and experience something more.
Before you read on, be sure to read part one first. Done? Then let's move on to Side 2...
- Something Changed
There's a bit in Mis-Shapes where Jarvis Cocker starts talking about the lottery ("check your lucky numbers, that much money could drag you under"), and at first I didn't really get what that had to do with the. But looking at it again, I think it's just another criticism of the knuckleheads who terrorise him and his misfit mates; in spite of their power, the bullies are as working class as their prey, and instead of seeking an education and climbing the social ladder by brainpower (which is Jarvis's proposed tactic), they just spend all their money on lottery tickets in the hope that they'll get lucky.
What does this have to do with Something Changed, you ask? Well, this song is all about getting lucky and winning your way out of a shitty situation; the only difference is that Jarvis is sick of being single, and tonight he wants to win the lottery of lurve. The very first line is "I wrote this song two hours before we met", so we know that the love song that follows is hopeful rather than thankful. He's trying to bend fate to his will, and if he concentrates hard enough, perhaps something will change. Not unlike Live Bed Show, this is one where being single and unloved is analogous to being of low social standing, and just as the antagonists of Mis-Shapes look to the lottery to change their lives, Jarvis is hoping that some force higher than himself will intervene and find true love for him:"Do you believe that there's someone up above? Does he have a timetable directing acts of love?"
- Sorted for E's & Wizz
This one's a little different to the others. Instead of saying "we're here, you're there, and here's the line between us", it says "here we all are together" and then goes on to wonder whether or not that's actually a good thing. At a big rave party, there is no class, no division, just "twenty thousand people standing in a field". And it's great, for a bit, but eventually you'll have to "come down" and retake your place in society, however degraded and bland that may be. Frustrating, perhaps, but the alternative might be even worse - who'd want to be one of those people that "never come down"?
Man, that title's a pain in the bum to type out. While the chap who wrote Something Changed was desperate for love to descend from the heavens and sort out his life, the narrator of this song has stumbled into love and he makes it sound like a singularly unpleasant experience. Chocolates? Roses? Hollywood romance? No, no, and nope; this is a different, "dirtier" class of love, with chemical reactions and sick feelings in your stomach. It doesn't make no sense, it's not convenient, it doesn't fit your plans, but you've got that taste in your mouth and you've no choice but to act on it.
As with I Spy, I'm not totally sure of what's happening in this song. But at the core of things, we seem to have a girl who is about to give herself to a bloke, even though she's not entirely sure she wants to. And then there's Jarvis, on the sidelines, complaining that he would die to see her semi-naked. There's a hint of jealousy, that 'why do girls like guys like them instead of nice lads like me?' sentiment that's a common side dish for many a high school crush. While the unnamed "him" feels entitled to bit of bump and grind, Jarv would have given his whole life just to see the girl in her underwear. There's something slightly naive about the lyrics, as if the narrator doesn't really understand that there's anything beyond underwear. But that's kind of the point - he's painting himself as a different class of suitor, a more friendly and less lecherous prospect than the guy she's about to get with.
- Monday Morning
This one's kind of a sequel to Mis-Shapes, I reckon. The underdogs have finished school and they're ready to go out, grab the bull by the horns, and leave their oppressors behind. But instead of making the world a better place and stepping into "the light of a new day dawning", they opt to throw it all away; some get boring nine-to-five jobs, while others don't bother with work at all and jump head-first into a hedonistic party lifestyle ("I just can't seem to spend a night at home", laments Jarvis). Either way, they end up in a rut, a repetitive seven-day cycle that always comes back to Monday morning. Whether you're at work or just struggling to overcome your latest hangover, it's not a pleasant place to be.
- Bar Italia
The album ends with an interesting twist on the working class/middle class divide. It's a new morning, and while the posh, middle-class businessmen are all heading off to work, the working class people have just emerged from the night's revelry and they're staggering off to a diner to get some breakfast. I haven't really commented on the druggy associations of the word 'class', but since there are three tracks on the album that deal with comedowns and hangovers (Sorted, Monday and Italia), I suspect that's probably an intentional pun. This is the lifestyle that the Greek girl in Common People wanted to get in on, but if Bar Italia's bleary-eyed narrator is to be believed, it's not all that desirable. We end in a Soho bar "where all the broken people go", and no sane listener would be left wanting to live the life they've just had a glimpse of.