Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Best of: 1998

Until we get to the very recent past, this is the only time I’ve maintained my best-of-the-year pick. I said it then, and I say it again now: Pulp’s This Is Hardcore is the best album of 1998.

The doomy, fatalistic tone of this album fits in well with both college-age angst and the slightly more grown-up version. This Is Hardcore’s sound flirts with a kind of antiseptic bombast, but – thanks to Jarvis Cocker’s inimitable lyrical and vocal stance – it’s completely appropriate, treating the slick modern age as an especially horrific hall of mirrors. In 1998, the most noteworthy tracks for me were the ones with the most gothic despair, like the title track and “The Fear.” Some nine years later, however, it’s the back end of the album that has gained the most resonance; “Glory Days” and “The Day After the Revolution” genuinely try to work through disillusion to get to some better, wiser place. I must also give props to the U.S. version of the album, losing the 14-minute synth note at the end of “Revolution” and adding the awesome glam-rock thrill of “Like a Friend,” which also manages to fit into the aforementioned mood of the album’s conclusion.

The only real competition for best-of-’98 for me is Quasi’s Featuring “Birds”, another album-length ode to failure and shattered dreams. Both albums achieve a sort of catharsis, and both sound great when I’m having a shitty day at work. But I’m going to give the edge to This Is Hardcore, not just because it more explicitly looks for a way out of the mire, but also because of my well-established and unabashed Pulp bias.


Blogger Greycats said...

I love this is hardcore. I reminds me of every boyfriend I had in college (how scary is that:)

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

I guess this is a joke post, and I should just wait for the real 1998 entry debating the merits of Psycho Circus and that Vaganza album, right?

Definitely Pulp vs. Quasi for me here, but I'd go the other way and say Featuring 'Birds'. I love Hardcore, especially everything in the first half and even songs I've never read anyone talking up like "I'm A Man." I guess if it has a weakness for me, it might be related to what you're saying. The more positive songs in the second half just can't hold up to the power and scope of those dark first half songs, and I end up wanting him to stay in the seedy, disillusioned part of town. Different Class avoided that because the journey is more circular and, for me, "Monday Morning" and "Bar Italia" are much stronger places to end up. But still, amazing album and I listen to it all the time.

"Birds" has the twin advantage of their trademark down lyrics up tempo style (better anywhere than on "California"?) and superior ghost/pirate/doomed ship songwriting, but what I really love are the curves on the structure of the songs. Some end right when you're expecting another turn in the song, and there are a few that have minute-plus builds of nothing but drum and roxichord, then do a single pass through a verse and end out of nowhere, as if that's all that needed to be said. And they're right.

9:50 AM  

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