Coming over a decade before the height of Pulp’s popularity, It has been largely ignored by the dance-pop masses. Following their breakthrough John Peel session, which featured a lot of angry post-punk, it was something of a surprise when Pulp released this almost pastoral homage to Scott Walker, who would later produce We Love Life.
But then again, the Pulp who produced It (this is exactly why I should really start putting my titles in speech marks. Oh well…) it were basically a group of schoolboys who were all set to jack it all in and head off to university. It’s all charmingly amateurish, from Jarvis’ hopeless romantic posturing and eccentric vocals, to the hastily assembled backing singers. Apparently “Julie, Joanne and Alison” are the additional performers – they’re probably working in Gregg’s bakery as you read this, thinking ‘what if’. After all, the only person who stuck around was Jarvis himself.
And does it work? Well, not really. There are two killer tunes, worthy of any compilation album. The opener, My Lighthouse, begins with the squawking of seagulls and it’s a fabulously decadent and romantic depiction of the good things about lighthouses (let’s not think about the murders and shipwrecks for now.) “It may seem strange to talk of love and then lighthouses / It’s not strange to me” croons Cocker, before launching into a yelp that would definitely have the poor gulls scrambling for cover.
The other master blaster is Joking Aside, which is slightly menacing even for big JC. “I’d like to turn you over / See what’s on your other side / To see if the problem’s in my mind”, he grunts, presumably to something very heavy (a whale?) He still misses his fair share of notes, but with the general discordance it doesn’t matter. It’s a shame about the lesbian “la-la-la”s though; with all the experimentation he was doing I would have just gone the extra mile and stuck some bagpipes in there.
At least the EP has only 7 tracks (in its original form) which ensures something approaching consistency. Boats and Trains, with its funny little mandolin, may be excessively quirky, but it’s rather pleasant to listen to. Not so the dirge-like Blue Girls, where Jarvis goes for some serious reverb and gets it all wrong (decaying girls, anyone?), or the angst-ridden Wishful Thinking, where he pulls off his best Robert Smith voice but struggles to hold a single note.
Continuing the theme of dreadful wordplay (pulpit, geddit?) we have Love Love, a bizarre music hall stomp that vaguely hints at a more uptempo future for the group. The album at least closes on a high note with the jangle-pop In Many Ways, which contains a top-notch chorus that could have easily been a hit with some better production. Much like Something Changed from Different Class, which was written around about this time and shows off Jarvis’ Gainsbourg worship.
It’s doubtful, very doubtful, that any 90s Pulp fans will be able to stomach this album. As a musical artefact, however, it’s definitely one of a kind, and if you can stomach Jarvis’ singing even enjoyable in places. Certainly preferable to the angst-ridden direction Pulp would take next with 1987′s Freaks, anyway…