TV Movie: Pulp’s This Is Hardcore at 25

Looking back on the British pop group’s cinematic sixth LP

Pulp This Is Hardcore, Island Records 1998

When Pulp released their sixth album This Is Hardcore on March 30, 1998, it was met with largely universal acclaim in the press.

“On This Is Hardcore, the band expands on that promise with an album that is less bright and bouncy but that is even more daring and fully realized,” declared Greg Kot in Rolling Stone. “From the doorstep of middle age, midthirtyish singer and lyricist Cocker looks to his future with a mild case of nausea, even as drummer Nick Banks, keyboardist Candida Doyle, bassist Steve Mackey and guitarist Mark Webber keep the pop champagne fizzing.”

“Different Class was a debauched update of vintage new wave styles,” David Browne wrote in Entertainment Weekly. “This Is Hardcore is more expansive and more stylish than its predecessor, integrating sweeping string sections and over-the-top, big-rock production touches.”

A darker, tougher contrast to its 1995 predecessor Different Class, This Is Hardcore was a meditation on themes of domestication and responsibility under the fading twinkle of a nightclub glitterball. And that drive to keep the party going on the fumes of youth no doubt propels the album’s feel–bombastic in the sense of Great Britain’s finest exports of macro rock maneuvering. 


VIDEO: Pulp “This Is Hardcore”

“The music is sumptuous lounge-lizard rock augmented by strings and noisy disruptions,” wrote Kot, this time covering the album in The Chicago Tribune. “A clever, catchy ’90s take on the Bowie/Mott/Roxy glam rock of the ’70s.”

Buoyed by songs like “Dishes,” “Help The Aged” and the epic title cut, it’s almost like Cocker and company were trying to create This Is Hardcore the way Douglas Sirk directed Imitation of Life in 1959. 

“Films and TV give you an impression of knowing something about the world or knowing something about situations,” Cocker told RayGun Magazine in 1998. “But they only show them, they don’t communicate what they’re actually like, They’re no substitute for actually doing it. That leaves you feeling kind of prematurely jaded and a bit jaundiced about things. So when it came to making this record, suddenly it was a bit like The Purple Rose of Cairo, where the audience becomes part of the film. All my life I’ve been an observer, not only of films and TV, but of life, and then as soon you get that germ of public acceptance, then you are somebody else’s show. You’re actually part of the action on the screen.”


VIDEO: Pulp “Help The Aged”

In terms of its high drama, This Is Hardcore falls somewhere between Ziggy Stardust and Meat Is Murder. But the music is so damn good (especially in testament to the underrated work of Steve Mackey, who we lost just recently), it never allows itself to let the camp of it all take over completely. Cocker is such a great songwriter, songs like “The Fear” and “Sylvia” prove unequivocally that those comparisons to Bowie and Roxy are right on the money shot. Especially when they’re backed by Webber’s guitar heroics on a Ronson-ian level in this regard.

If you haven’t done so in a while, give This Is Hardcore a listen on its 30th Anniversary today. It deserves to be celebrated a lot more than it does in the present tense. 


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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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