Film review – PULP: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets

UK Premiere and live Q&A with Pulp – 7th June 2014 – City Hall, Sheffield
Screened at: Watershed, Bristol

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It‘s clear from the start that PULP: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets will be no straightforward concert movie. Any notion of linear structure is gleefully dispensed with as the film jumps and flits about like some vintage Jarvis choreography. Scenes of the band mix with sketches of everyday life in Sheffield; band members chat candidly while punters in the street wax lyrical over what Pulp mean to them; footage of their reunion gig in December 2012 is interspersed with vintage clips from their wilderness years.

The result is a giddy cinematic patchwork, by turns absurd, hilarious and moving. It’s drunk with love not just for Pulp themselves but for the city and people of Sheffield.

It may be fuzzy and nostalgic, but viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of its mischievous director Florian Habicht, a safe course is always steered away from the sentimental towards the … well … just plain mental.

Surreal sequences alternate with wise words from the ever-insightful Mr Cocker and co until you feel cocooned in this wonderfully woozy world where nothing makes sense but every word feels profound.

OK, maybe the barrage of hilarity that makes up the first half-hour isn’t quite sustained for the duration of the film, but I guess that’s the price you pay for Florian’s impulsive, virtuoso film-making. In his adorably shambolic introduction, he beams like an overexcited puppy who can’t quite believe he’s getting away with it. And if the end result here may be a little uneven, Florian’s wide-eyed enthusiasm makes it utterly forgivable.

[Steve Mackey (bassist), Fabian Habicht (director), Jarvis Cocker (sex god)]

Steve Mackey (bassist), Fabian Habicht (director), Jarvis Cocker (sex god)

Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse after the screening when we link up again with Sheffield (Sex) City Hall for a Q&A session with the band and the film’s director. Adam Buxton was originally listed as host for the session but it is Paul Morley who turns up on the night. He appears to have arrived fresh from some kind of brawl outside and clearly would rather be anywhere else in the world right now. He spins questions so overwrought and impenetrable it feels like sitting an English Lit exam.

Troopers to the last, each band member proves their articulacy and heroically deciphers Mr Morley’s riddles, but it’s a tough ask to make it entertaining. And if Mr Morley is the teacher posing the questions, then Florian is the cheeky schoolboy who hasn’t revised but somehow wings his way through it with a grin. Thank goodness Jarvis is on hand to make sense of it all for us.

What should have been a joyous celebration of the band and the film we’d all just shared together becomes a horrible comedown that is pretty painful to watch.

According to the NME, band members were mobbed by fans at the screening in Sheffield. Maybe Paul Morley was brought in to quell the crowd – with boredom.

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The Q&A session inevitably led to questions about the band’s future. Do Pulp remain a going concern? Will there ever be another gig? Or new music? Candida was unconvinced. But Nick seemed up for it so who knows? If there is no more Pulp to look forward to then PULP: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets will remain a fittingly thoughtful, hilarious, scruffy memento to a band that were definitely a different class.

A post-script

Back in the day, I dressed myself to look like Jarvis – and I know I wasn’t the only one. Indie nights nationwide were peppered with geeky gawky individuals like me flaunting their latest acquisitions from the local Age Concern outlet. I no longer take my sartorial cues from Jarvis but I had expected to see some more committed devotees in attendance tonight. But sadly no: there wasn’t a ruffled blouse to be seen. On the men, I mean. Even the band members themselves have smartened up and had dental work.

The only person who still dresses that way is Jarvis. And he still looks magnificent. It was never a phase, never an affectation. His heeled boots and Bo Selecta specs remain the epitome of geek chic that they always were.

It seems there is, and always has been, only one Jarvis Cocker. And that’s Jarvis Cocker.

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“…each time you vote you support the process…”

Oh it’s his birthday, let him have his say:

See my review here.

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Single review: Morrissey – “World Peace Is None Of Your Business”

Hear these lines? Truly disappointed (truly, truly, truly)

Is that a didgeridoo? In a Morrissey song?? I do believe it is. And some tribal drumming too. Oh I see: it’s a reference to the ‘world’ in the song’s title. Unfortunately, it’s also an indication of the transparent level that Morrissey chooses to work on these days…

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If you discount his lovely cover of Satellite Of Love, rush-released last year to commemorate the death of hero Lou Reed, this is the longest we’ve had to wait for a new Moz tune since Irish Blood, English Heart broke a 7 year silence a decade ago.

Whereas that song introduced a reinvigorated Morrissey rocking out of exile with some directly political lyrics and a flurry of mic-whipping, World Peace Is None of Your Business appears tired, lumpen and bereft of melody. The lyrics have now slipped from concise to just plain blunt; the odd promo clip of Moz’s spoken-word version of the song is about as tuneful as the sung version. [Which shouldn’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the batty cameo from Nancy Sinatra.]

The upward stab of melody in the first line is simply repeated for much of the remainder of the track, the clunky words forced to fit against their will.

Throwaway lines like “would you kindly keep your nose out” might have sparkled within a sprightlier tune [think: Frankly Mr Shankly]. But this is more mantra than melody and, though I guess that might actually be the intention, it doesn’t make it any more pleasant to listen to.

And exactly who is he addressing as the “poor little fool” who “sweetly pays [his] taxes / never asking what for”? Surely, Steven, you’ve taught us better than that over the years. If he’s referring to those across the globe fighting for their democratic rights, then I’m not sure the repeated message “each time you vote you support the process” will be any comfort.

Contrary as ever, with Moz, his ostensibly hateful and condescending views often hide a deeper empathy. It’s just that digging beneath his petulance to find it grows increasingly tiresome. However wrong-headed the lyrics may appear, Moz will have a defence ready.

Overall, World Peace Is None of Your Business is Morrissey’s weakest single since 2008’s equally tuneless That’s How People Grow Up or maybe even his worst since Roy’s Keen back in 1997.

There’s evidence on YouTube that other new songs, in their live incarnations, are much more promising. So it’s fingers crossed for the album…

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Congratulations Conchita Wurst. Congratulations everyone.

Austrian bearded drag queen wins Eurovision 2014. World remains on axis.

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OK, I may have supped a few cans of Guinness, but I can’t help feeling I have just witnessed something rather monumental. Maybe something approaching Stonewall in terms of historical importance.

Hyperbole?  Over-sentimentality?  Just plain drunkenness?  I guess time will tell…

For now, there is really nothing more to add to Conchita’s own acceptance speech:

“This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity. And we are unstoppable.”

[right-click to un-mute]

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‘Ladyparts Sausage’ steals the show

Eurovision semi #2

The lesson I have learned this evening is this: never attempt Eurovision sober.

Compared to the first semi-final on Tuesday, tonight’s show was rather thin on highlights.  There was another song about cake which I thoroughly enjoyed…but that was about it.

Maybe I just wasn’t in a Eurovision kinda mood. Or maybe everything else was just left in the shade by this:

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A simple Google Translate of Conchita Wurst’s name reaps hilarious results [see title]. And if it’s undeniably a Eurovision gimmick to send a bearded lady to represent your country, it’s a Eurovision gimmick par excellence.

But it’s actually much much more than that. Conchita is strikingly beautiful, beard and all. The song could easily pass as a Bond theme, and her performance is commanding, powerful and gimmick-free.  I found it genuinely moving in a Hedwig-stylee, which was the last thing I expected.

I think I might be experiencing the most confusing crush of my life.

 

 

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Hair-flinging, cake-baking, roller-blading nonsense… and that’s just for starters

Eurovision Song Contest

So then… semi #1 was a mixture of old Eurovision staples (eg. wind machine, key changes) and its fair share of the ‘what-the-hell-was-that?’ moments.

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Some highlights:

  • Scruffy-bearded Latvians singing “Ask your mother how to bake that cake”
  • Lyrical genius from Iceland: “It’s not trigonometry / Inside we’re the same”
  • Terrible Albanian dad-rock guitar solo in an even terribler cream roll-neck jumper
  • Russian see-saw, Azerbaijani trapeze, Ukrainian giant hamster wheel…
  • A new take on Bucks Fizz-style disrobing: that Moldovan girl ripped her own hair off! Let’s hope it grows back by Saturday.
  • Montenegro‘s backing dancer: Swan Lake on roller-blades!

And…. a glimpse of Austria‘s bearded lady, whose entry we shall see in the second semi on Thursday.

Get the Lambrini in – I can hardly wait…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eurovision – first semi of the week (snigger!)

For those of us of a certain persuasion, it’s like Christmas all over again. It’s camp and shiny and drinking games are virtually unavoidable.

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Nowadays the spectacle of Eurovision has blossomed and grown into a week-long pagan feast. From today until Saturday, you’ll find it difficult to escape as it fills the BBC schedule every other evening in shiny two-hour blocks. It’s an embarrassment of riches! Or just an embarrassment, depending on your point of view.

Tonight is Semi-Final #1.

Last year, Ana Matronic joined Scott Mills as a presenter for the semi-final [both being ditched before the grand final in favour of the over-excitable drunkard Graham Norton]. Any concerns that American Ana wouldn’t ‘get’ the odd spectacle of Eurovision – and the contrary UK attitude to it (snooty yet affectionate) – were soon allayed: her comments were perfectly pitched between finely-tuned irony and wide-eyed wonder at the spectacle of it all. I especially enjoyed her building a collection of pretty boys as the nights drew on.

I’ve just seen that Ana isn’t part of the team this year, apparently relegated further to BBC’s Eurovision-themed pop-up DAB station, whatever the hell that means. That’s a shame – let’s hope her replacement Laura Whitmore can be half as entertaining.

OK Copenhagen, let the weirdness begin…

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