Posts Tagged ‘Britpop’

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A Little Soul

05/13/2010

Pulp – This Is Hardcore

circa 1998

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.

"this is the eye of the storm"

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.

P.

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Artist: Pulp

Album: This Is Hardcore

Label: Island

Released: 1998

Recommended Tracks: This Is Hardcore, The Fear, A Little Soul, Dishes.
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This Is A Low

05/11/2010

Blur – Parklife

circa 1994

In the Summer, Me, Ev and Richard decided to make the move from home and get ourselves a flat in the city. We plumped for Rathmines, an area 20 minutes walk south from Dublin City Centre. Rathmines is one of several inner city residential areas that form a belt along the Grand Canal. What was once a mainly middle-class borough had in large part been taken over by the many students that attended the various colleges and universities in the area. The rows and rows of red brick Georgian family homes had been hacked up by unscrupulous slumlords to create bedsits and tiny flats.

My Dad got me work for the summer with Jacobs the biscuit manufacturer out in Tallaght at the foot of the Dublin mountains. I worked in a large warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of biscuits. My job as “Order Picker” entailed driving a little electric cart around, collecting the orders and putting them on the delivery trucks.

Busy as I was with work, I left it to Ev and Richard to find our new abode. After much searching they found a two bedroom place on Ardee Road. The flat constituted the whole ground floor of what was once a two-story single family home. The landlord in his wisdom converted the two floors into self-contained flats with a common front door. The hall door opened into a tiny kitchen. The table was so small we had to take turns eating our dinner. The living room was to the left off the kitchen with both bedrooms to the back also off the kitchen. The only snag was that access to the bathroom, a former out-house now attached, was solely through the smaller of the two bedrooms. Ev and Richard took the larger of the two bedrooms I got the smaller to myself.

To celebrate our new found independence we invited all of our mates over for a house warming party. We started out in the Rathmines Inn, getting a few drinks down us before heading back to the house to get smashed. It’s probably appropriate that I don’t remember much of what went down at the party. I have hazy recollections of one of Matt, Alan, Paul or Ciaran crashing their motorbike while racing in the street outside. When we did come to in the morning we discovered that one of the windows in the lads bedroom was broken. I went to the hardware store and bought replacement glass and glaziers putty. While the lads cleared up the mess I installed the new pane.

"this is a low, but it won't hurt you"

One of the lads mates from UCD, Piaras, had brought over his copy of Blur’s Parklife album for me to tape. Although I liked their exuberant There’s No Other Way single from a couple of years back, both Ev and I had been pretty dismissive of their Girls & Boys single and mock-Cockney shenanigans. Piaras though was adamant that these guys were cool, so I thought I’d give them a whirl.

That morning, as we sat down in the living room with our cups of tea and pounding hangovers, I stuck it on. The lead-off track was Girls & Boys, its thumping beat was a bit much considering our delicate situation but that quickly segued into the much more palatable Tracy Jacks and that into the wonderful End Of A Century. Badhead, To The End, Clover Over Dover – each track was better than the preceding one. It’s fair to say it was love at first listen. Alan, who’d just dropped in, thought so too. By the time we got to the magnificent This Is A Low, a song about the weather forecast, I was well and truly hooked. The singer and chief songwriter, Damon Albarn, has that rare artistic gift – the ability to take a mundane, ordinary, everyday subject and turn it into something beautiful. Pure genius.

When the lads caught up with Piaras a few days later he somewhat sheepishly admitted that it was him that had broken the window – with his arse? After several weeks the putty still hadn’t set in the window and to the best of my knowledge never did.

P.

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Artist: Blur

Album: Parklife

Label: Food

Released: 1994

Recommended Tracks: See above.
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