14 July 2009

I Bought This on Amazon for less than a Pack of Cigarettes

Have come up with an ambitious new plan. Attempting to create an honest and open discourse with the people. (if there actually are any). Truth of the matter is that I am not very cool. I don't know a whole hell of a lot. Just enough to pass. Oftentimes, things seem very new and radical to me. In this vein, I have come up with a plan. Occasionally from time to time and starting as of today, will be a new column in which I attempt to understand music. The column is going to be called "I Bought this album on Amazon for less than a Pack of Cigarettes", and in it I will assess one album that I found on Amazon and that costed less than a pack of smokes. I live in Maryland, and I don't pay more than $5.51 for a pack so whatever albums are discussed you can rest assured that I did not pay more than $5.51 for it. Again, the success of this will be contingent on the people but since chances of that are slim then I guess I can't lose. The first album to enter this brand new arena is Different Class by Pulp.
I first was introduced to Pulp while in my third year of university. One of my English professors casually name-dropped them while we were having a conversation after class one day. We were talking about William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and how combined they made a very formidable writing duo. I favored Coleridge, and tried making the argument that they would have been just as successful if they had worked under their own accord instead of collaborating all the time. I even went so far as to compared Wordsworth and Coleridge to Mick and Keith. My professor argued that Mick and Keith need one another in order to be successful while Wordsworth and Coleridge probably could have managed on their own. We both seemed to agree that the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts, no matter how stellar the parts may be. This led to talking about Thom Yorke's The Eraser, and how while it was pretty good it was still not in the same ballpark as Radiohead. My teacher then mentioned Jarvis Cocker, and started telling me that Jarvis was so good that she doubted Pulp would ever get back together. This reference kind of went over my head, but I didn't want that to show so I just nodded enthusiastically and said "Totally". I then went home, and downloaded Jarvis. Later on, I bought Pulp's This is Hardcore because I wanted to own a Pulp album and because I really dug the album title. The only album title better that I can think of is Yo La Tengo's I Am Not Afraid Of You, and I Will Kick Your Ass which coincidentally is a very hardcore title for an album. 
Different Class comes with a whirl of praise surrounding it, and notable distinctions include 1996 Mercury Music Prize Winner, and the #1 album on the UK Album charts for the week of November 11 1995 to November 17 1995. The song "Common People" reached #2 on the UK Singles chart while "Disco 2000" peaked at #7, and "Something Changed" made it as high as #10.
This is an album for the people. It would be nice to be able to believe that it was written by the people as well. The entire disc seems to have a case of disenfranchisement and alienation to it. Don't worry. They're reveling in it like the Velvet Underground before them. They kind of don't give a fuck. When discussing postmodernism, Nietzsche used an image of a cliff as a means of gauging how "post-modern" something is. The idea was that the closer to the cliff without regard would qualify as something as wholly postmodern. On Different Class, the people are dancing on the edge of the cliff. There are some very intrinsically postmodern concepts within Different Class. There are ideas of anarchy and deconstruction. Process, performance, and happening all seem to ring out on the album. In an article entitled "What is Postmodernism?" by Durand, it is stated that, "...writers and thinkers of the 1960 and 1970 avant-gardes spread a reign of terror in the use of language, and that the conditions for a fruitful exchange must be restored by imposing on the intellectuals a common way of speaking." (71). This is all well and good, but on "Common People" the band argues that once you've missed the boat then there is no chance of boarding it later on. In "Common People", the protagonist expresses a desire to live like a common person and to do the things that regular people do. Jarvis is trying to tell this broad that she just does not get it. "Everybody hates a tourist especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh and the chip stains and grease will come out in the bath. You will never understand how it feels to live your life with no meaning or control and with nowhere left to go." The protagonist's father can bail her out of any situation, and while that is convenient for her it is not the case for the rest of us. This sentiment continues on to the next track, "I Spy". Jarvis says that he "does these things just so I'll survive." This is not an act, or a vain attempt at seeming unique or authentic. This is being played out on a much larger scale, and the consequences are much more dire. In Don DeLillo's White Noise, the people go into a fit of panic when the air-born toxic event appears because they are not sure what to do. They feel like death is imminent, and are trying to make everything count. Nice try, but if you've spent your entire lifetime in the bullshit department then eventually it becomes hard to make up for lost time. If you've been living authentically already then the end wouldn't seem so frightening. Its kind of like in The Deer Hunter in that one scene when they are getting ready to go hunting and they are giving Christopher Walken shit about not eating lunch. He tells them that he doesn't eat because it keeps the fear up. The fear keeps people honest. They are not as prone to bullshit because they know the end is around the corner and they are trying to make everything count. These fortunate ones have already figured out what Jarvis is talking about on "Sorted for E's & Wizz" when he says that all of this has to mean something. Everything means something, but we as humans don't have the proper equipment to fully analyze it. Better off to just make the most of what we do understand. On "Mis-shapes", we are told that the one weapon we have that the elites don't have is our minds and we may as well utilize that as best we can because since it can't be bought in stores and shops and it is something that is really all for us. It's like the exclusive hook-up that you can only access if you are in the know, and the great part about it is that as long as you aren't completely full of shit then it becomes slightly easier to find. "There's only one place to go" is a line from the last track, "Bar Italia". Probably don't know where this place is, but it sounds like the place to be and if Pulp is to be trusted then there is no harm in dedicating the rest of our time to finding it.  

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