Pulp – This Is Hardcore
Martin and I had been mates since about 1989. He was from Ballymun on the Northside of Dublin. We met through the annual Irish Youth Science & Arts Week held at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) in Ballsbridge. We didn’t get to know each other until a few weeks later when we worked together at the RDS Horse Show in our capacity as Litter Attendants (road sweepers).
Around Christmas ’97, Martin joined me and some of my Lucan friends for drinks in the Pravda Bar in Dublin. My mate Richard had just spent a fun year in Sydney and encouraged all that would listen to do likewise – Australia allows Irish citizens to come and work for up to one year. Martin was working with IBM, and I was with a small publishing company, but neither of our careers were going anywhere. Sunnier climes sounded very attractive indeed, so over many pints we plotted our escape.
Getting the visas was easy, but it took awhile to get enough cash together. By September we’d booked our flights: Dublin-London-Tokyo-Sydney. We finished our notice with work, packed our sleeping bags, a box of tapes, and were off. We stayed a night with my sister in London, posed for photos with my newborn niece, Megan, and then it was off to Japan.
Incredibly long flight, followed by a short one south to Miyazaki, and then a night train to meet one of Martin’s mates, Stephen. We crashed at his place for a week. Stephen was teaching English. He introduced us to his class – they were very much amused by the two pasty faced lads from Dublin. We hiked to the top of a volcano, the one next to the one featured in James Bond’s You Only Live Twice. Crowds of school kids gathered around to look at our hairy legs. They made monkey noises. They were very, very amused. We went to a karaoke bar. Martin and I duetted on The Beatles’ Help – the audience were not amused. A couple more nights up in Tokyo and we were off again.
Next stop, Sydney. Another long flight. We’d arranged to stay with the brother of a friend of Martin’s mother. Gerry lived in the Coogee Beach area. He gave us great advice – stay in Coogee, work and drink with all the Irish, have a great time, or get in with the Aussies and sample the real Australia.
Eventually we got our own place in Randwick. We’d no furniture. We bought a couple of mattresses. Mine had pictures of spaceships. We took turns sitting on a milk crate to eat our dinner from an ironing board doubling as a table. Martin quickly found work in IT working on the new Sydney Airport. I found things a bit more difficult. I took work as a bartender in the only straight club on Oxford Street.
What channels our TV’s rabbit ears could pick up were crap, so I joined the library. I read voraciously. The library loaned CDs so I picked up the recently-released This Is Hardcore by Pulp. They had become huge during the height of Britpop a couple of years previously. The Different Class album with its infectious hooks and wry lyrics drew me in, but I just couldn’t take them seriously. I didn’t expect much from this new effort.
Lead track, The Fear, set the tone. It begins with a mournful, siren-like wailing, the song itself down-beat and dark, its themes – drugs, loneliness, despair. Gone were the disposable pop beats and ironic singalong lyrics. Chief songwriter/singer Jarvis Cocker had got to the heart of the darkness. While the humour was still evident, check Help The Aged, this album is the big come down. It’s the soundtrack to the morning after the night before of Britpop. All the bottles are empty, the drugs are done, and all that’s left is a full ashtray and a thumping hangover. Brilliant.
This album is a slow burner too. It will take any listener expecting Disco 2000 many listens before feeling comfortable with its dark themes and soundscapes. Its worth it, the payoff is much more satisfying than any of the band’s predecessors. The relatively poor sales that followed its release eventually did the band in, though they would release the excellent We Love Life before breaking up.
I found work in publishing and ended up extending my stay by an extra year. Evin, Ronan, Melanie, Peter, Suzanne and Aefa all joined us in Sydney. We took Gerry’s advice and got well-in with the Aussies, made some great friends and had good time. Not hard really when you consider that Australians are basically the Irish with suntans.
Album: This Is Hardcore
Recommended Tracks: This Is Hardcore, The Fear, A Little Soul, Dishes.