Monday, May 11, 2015

His 'n' Hers

Few people would argue that His 'n' Hers is the best Pulp album. Heck, depending on how you feel about This is Hardcore, you may argue that His 'n' Hers isn't even their second best album. 

But this album does do something that neither Different Class nor This is Hardcore really manage: it gives the listener a reasonable impression of what it's like to grow up in Sheffield. Sure, Different Class tackled a lot of social issues that Jarvis Cocker and Co. probably encountered during their formative years in the North of England, but that album didn't really feel like it belonged to any particular location - songs like Common People and Mis-Shapes touched on themes that anyone could relate to, no matter where in the country they lived.

To some extent, the 11 tracks that make up His 'n' Hers do this too. But, to me, they feel a lot more personal to their creators, more informed by the life that Jarvis lived before he found fame and fortune in the mid-nineties. The locations mentioned sound they're based on reality - there's the reservoir in Joyriders, the bedroom in Babies, the table under which JC hides in Acrylic Afternoons...not to mention all the places mentioned in David's Last Summer:

Including a stream, a garden, a faraway park, an abandoned glasshouse, a bandstand, a boating lake, and a room that smells faintly of suntan lotion.

While Different Class sounds like it was written as a large-scale commentary on the state of the nation, His 'n' Hers feels like it was written by a bunch of teenagers after school. As such, it gives us a few suggestions as to how the residents of Sheffield kept themselves entertained in the pre-broadband era:

Sex, mostly. Or, failing that, listening to other people have sex.

Yes, His 'n' Hers is a very sexually-charged album, with most of its characters either copping off with a girl, attempting to cop off with a girl, or longing for the girl they used to cop off with. Was there anything to do in Sheffield (circa 1994) besides copping off? Well, maybe, if Joyriders is to be believed:

"We like driving on a Saturday night
Past the leisure centre, left at the lights
We don't look for trouble, but if it comes we don't run
Looking out for trouble is what we call fun
Hey, you! You in the Jesus sandals!
Would you like to come over and watch some vandals
Smashing up someone's home?"

All in all, then, His 'n' Hers paints a rather bleak picture of Pulp's hometown - a place where there's not much to do besides "shit, sleep and drink" (Joyriders again), and where the only interesting stories revolve around who's shagging who and how they're doing it. Of course, the band would run into other, different problems when they finally got out of Sheffield (This is Hardcore is largely about the stresses of being famous, and one song - Dishes - even seems to yearn for the simple, dull life that His 'n' Hers dissects), but the people who made this particular album wanted nothing more than to flee:
"Please deliver us from matching sweatshirts and 'chicken in the rough', from evenings sat on couple row admiring the flock, from Sundays spent parading the aisles of Meadowhall. We don't want to live like this. It's bad for our health. Do something soon or it's curtains (just as long as they match with the walls and the sofa)."
- from the His 'n' Hers sleeve notes 

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