Pulp's This Is Hardcore

Jane Savidge


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Bloomsbury Publishing USA
7 March 2024
ISBN: 9798765106952
168 pages

From the publisher

This Is Hardcore is Pulp's cry for help. A giant, sprawling, flawed masterpiece of a record, the 1998 album manages to tackle some of the most inappropriate grown-up issues of the day – fame, ageing, mortality, drugs, and pornography – and still come out crying and laughing on the other side. The subject of pornography dominates the record – from its controversial artwork to the images conjured up by songs like "Seductive Barry" and the title track – after Pulp's main man, Jarvis Cocker – who'd spent most of his teenage and adult life chasing celebrity, only to be cruelly disappointed when it finally arrived in spades – hit upon the grand notion of using pornography as a metaphor for fame. The album's commercial failure as a follow-up to the band's Britpop-defining, Different Class, also symbolizes a death knell for Britpop itself.

Dark, right? Except just like Pulp themselves, Jane Savidge's book is playful and sometimes very funny indeed. Kicking off with an imaginary conversation between Jarvis Cocker and the people who run the Total Fame Solutions helpline, Savidge expertly guides us through the trials and tribulations of an album that begins with the so-called Michael Jackson Incident, when Cocker got up on stage at the 1996 Brit Awards and waggled his fully-clothed bum at the King of Pop. Pulp's This Is Hardcore may be a sleazy run through porn and mental demise, and an album that chronicles Cocker's continuing disillusionment with his newfound lot in life, but Savidge's book assesses the cultural and historical context of the album with insider knowledge and a sharp modern lens, ultimately making a case for it as one of the most important albums of the 1990s.