Pulp - His 'n' Hers Deluxe Edition
"We like driving on a Saturday night, past the Leisure Centre, left at the lights". There is something so quintessentially British about these words, the opening lyrics to Pulp's breakthrough album, His 'n' Hers. They evoke an image that anyone born on this fair island can identify with - the glamour of cruising in your car on the most important night of the week, cut down to normality by the recognisable shape of the municipal swimming baths. This association, mixing mundane facts of life with a slice of glamour is a trademark of this very English band, presenting a snapshot of life few others can capture.
No one could accuse Jarvis Cocker of not putting in the hours. The band Pulp had existed in various shapes and sizes since 1979, to almost universal indifference. However, signing to Gift records in the early 90's marked a turning point, in particular the original release (and the striking video) for Babies, and the wonderful single Razzamatazz. This in turn lead to Pulp being picked up by Island, who released a further string of consistently fantastic singles leading up to this album.
These deluxe editions are really rather lovely - the packaging is very nice, incorporating sleeve notes by Jarvis Cocker and plenty of photos never before seen. It is also a double disc set, with the original album on one CD and a second filled mostly with radio sessions and demos. His 'n' Hers itself is a puzzling album of contrasts. All the ingredients that went to make A Different Class so brilliant are present, but on the whole, the songs are just not as strong. The breathy, spoken-word vocal delivery sometimes utilized by Jarvis is present on a number of tracks, most notably Acrylic Afternoons. Opening track Joyriders is a glorious starburst of a song, long, choppy guitar chords slavered over lush organ stabs and Cocker's fantastic lyrics. Lipgloss also is a quality song and a wonderful single.
Some songs though just struggle to maintain interest. She's A Lady is bloated and lacking any real substance. Somewhere Like The Moon is also quite dull, a slow piece that merely drifts along. However, tracks like Pink Glove are packed with melodies and some fine performances. Babies still sounds special after all these years, as does Do You Remember the First Time?, a song where Jarvis really stretches his vocals to the limit, yelping over the crunch of guitar.
There is also much of interest on the second CD, seven of the tracks available for the first time. Space, recorded for a Mark Radcliffe session, is more an experiment in noise, Jarvis speaking over a collage of stuttering guitars and crashing percussion. Watching Nicky is an interesting piece as well, almost Babies Part One, echoing many of the ideas found in that track. Many of the songs here have a very distinct feel, showcasing the development of the band. You're Not Blind is reminiscent of Lipgloss, Seconds bearing a resemblance to Acrylic Afternoons. You're A Nightmare also stands out, a more delicate song recorded for a Peel session. The best is saved to last though with the strange and compelling Deep Fried in Kelvin, a long piece of experimental music packed with shifting styles.
As an album, His 'n' Hers has aged, but there are still moments of brilliance within the songs. There is a similarity to A Different Class, where the two albums could almost be laid back to back. Whilst not as vital as other albums of the time (for example the debut by Suede), it shows the evolution of a band ready to burst forward. Thankfully for Pulp, that moment came on their next album, which saw them perfectly placed in the time and the moment.