In A Class Of Its Own.
Many indie and/or pop fans will of course already own the original release, and some may be starting to grow cynical over the motives for Pulp's recent wave of re-releases, especially in the wake of 2002's 'Hits'; but if any album has ever deserved a re-release it bonus disc, it has to be 'Different Class'.
Opener 'Misshapes' is a rally call to all those who feel a little out of place, particularly if this is due to class or money (or lack thereof). Jarvis promises a revolution for the underclass, and his band back him up with an array of instruments, but it doesn't always convince. It's not a bad song, and ten times better than a lot of others in its genre, but musically it lacks the sophistication of many of the album's later tracks. 'Pencil Skirt' follows with an initially more downbeat atmosphere that soon builds into a tirade of genuine despair, proving that Pulp can sing just as well about personal relationships as society's problems.
'Different Class' contains many of Pulp's most-loved single releases, and sure enough by the third track we're reliving the nineties and singing along to the ever brilliant 'Common People'. An anthem for anyone who's ever been worse off than most, rented a flat above a shop and watched their life slide out of view; and a great tune for those who haven't – angry yet upbeat, and crying out to be danced to due to its disco beat and electronic effects. Sure enough, two tracks later we take another trip to the disco, and although the song loses a milligram of its original effect due to the fact we are now six years away from the date in the opposite direction, 'Disco 2000' remains a much loved classic. Even if we are all fully grown now, it takes one back to the time of teenage crushes and confusing social landscapes, and the music manages to be upbeat and bouncy without growing annoying or seeming un-thought-out like so much indie-pop of this new millennium.
A masterpiece of controlled mood and witty lyrics, 'I Spy' is (arguably) the album's best track. Dark and brooding, yet building into a joyous climax, Jarvis persuades the listener to agree with his amoral plans, and even that they aren't that amoral after all; whilst the instrumentalist members of the band provide a luscious accompaniment, proving they are far more than a backdrop to Mr. Cocker's genius.
'Something Changed' and 'F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E' are touching and believable love songs, never resorting to clichés, tackiness of over-expression of emotion; whilst 'Sorted For Es and Whizz' provides an upbeat elegy to the rave and festival culture of the eighties and nineties. As the album nears its close the songs take on a more downbeat path, but remain cleverly constructed, lyrically and musically. The penultimate track 'Monday Morning' is another modern anthem, this time for anyone who has found the future to be somewhat gloomier than they hoped 'So you finally left school / So what are you going to do?' and has noticed the weeks sliding into one. 'Bar Italia' provides a bittersweet ending to the album, and managing to round it off without being a ballad.
The second CD consists largely of demo tracks, as well as a live version of 'Common People', a couple of B-sides, a cover version and a remix. Although live tracks can sometimes be a bore to listen to due to poor sound quality, the live version of 'Common People' is certainly not an unworthy edition here, for the bare fact that it captures the atmosphere of a Pulp gig and the love of the band's fans. 'Mile End' is undoubtedly the highlight of the second disc, although 'PTA' comes a close second. Many listeners will recognise 'Mile End' from the soundtrack of the brilliant film 'Trainspotting', and it has to be one of the (if not the) best songs ever written about living in a high rise block of flats. The jaunty beat provides an antidote to the often bleak imagery contained in the lyrics and helps the listener to take them with a pinch of salt and laugh at the misfortunes of life on the wrong side of town – whether or not one has to live there. 'PTA' is another treat, Jarvis' vocals flawless and the musical parts luscious, provoking one to dance despite the darker side of life – which manages to be present in not only the song's lyrics but the also in its seemingly upbeat music.
Of the five demo tracks included here, 'Ansaphone' is the highlight. Jarvis' voice is strong and clear, and the accompanying music is comparatively simple for a Pulp track yet perfectly suited and still affecting. Towards the track's close there is a spoken word section, but it avoids the trap of sounding clichéd. 'Paula', 'Catcliffe Shakedown' and 'We Can Dance Again' are happy-sounding songs (although their cynical yet funny lyrics often tell a different story), musically reminiscent of pre-'His And Hers' Pulp. Although they are not as sophisticated musically as most of 'Different Class' all the demo tracks have something special about them, and make you wish for a band this good to be the voice of our current decade.
'Don't Lose It' is reminiscent of the band circa the 'His And Hers' album. It lacks a certain degree of sophistication when compared to the tracks of the first disc and some of the earlier offerings here; but it has clever lyrics and manages to sound both desperate and hopeful – the knack of many Pulp tracks. 'Whiskey In The Jar' however is sadly rather forgettable as Pulp tracks go, it has a traditional (and thereby rather over-used in modern music) rock song structure and its albeit interesting and well-written lyrics are hidden behind too many guitars and an often noisy drum beat.
The 'Nick Cave Pub Rock' version of 'Disco 2000' leaves a lot to be desired, being something of a ruination of the original song with its crashing guitars and drunken-sounding vocals. It has value as a curiosity however, and will provide amusement to fans on its first listen, although it's unlikely that they'll want to listen to it again. The same goes for 'Disco 2000 (Vocoda Mix)' which does nothing other than provide evidence that dance remixes of indie tracks (even pop and disco influenced indie tracks) are a bad idea.
There can be no doubt that 'Different Class' is a masterpiece, an album that can be enjoyed in any mood; something to sit and listen to or something to have on in the background when friends are over. It's an album that manages to traverse a wide emotional landscape from the brooding, malevolent 'I Spy' past the loved-up 'Something Changed', all the way to the indie-disco of 'Common People' and 'Disco 2000'. It manages to comment upon society and raise a smile on one side of the face and a frown on the other. The bonus disc contains a good selection of tracks, and although newcomers to the band may not derive the same joy from them as longer-standing fans, they will not disappoint or bore. If you don't already own 'Different Class', buy it now; and if you already own the original CD, buy this edition for the bonus tracks.