This album by the erstwhile Britpop band Pulp was released in the UK in October 2001, 3 years after This is Hardcore. Although it failed to light up the charts in the manner of their 1996 effort Different Class, this album has grown and grown and I'm now sure that it is the bands best work, although many long-term Pulp fans reacted with horror to this piece of work. The hooks are still there, they have just been hidden but end up crawling deeper inside your head. This is an album that demands you to start it again as soon as it has finished playing - what the 'repeat' button on your remote control was invented for.

The cheap synthy Pulp sound that characterised their assaults on the pop world are absent here, and the sense of being an outsider looking in, itching to gatecrash some party, any party (His 'N' Hers), or the deep despair at the futility of celebrity (This is Hardcore) are less prominent lyrically. The stories and characters that populate Pulp songs are still with us, but this time the band are embracing all things natural. With tracks entitled Weeds, The Trees and The Birds in my Garden give an indication of this newly pastoral Pulp, and it is a long way from the sentiments expressed on the Different Class rant I Spy:

"grass is something you smoke, birds are something you shag"
but being Pulp there is a lot made of the revoltingness of nature, making it at times feeling like your listening to Heaney's Blackberry Picking set to guitar, bass and drum.

The production of the album was long and fraught, with producer Chris Thomas who had worked on their previous 2 albums they recorded virtually a whole album's worth of material before scrapping it. Then singer Jarvis Cocker approached the legendary Scott Walker - one of American those singer songwriters from the 60s who were more appreciated in the UK then their home - who agreed to production duties, the first time Walker had worked for a band other than his own. Work was duly re-started and then completed by the summer of 2001. The album was released that autumn, but did not appear Stateside until August 2002 (but the lucky blighters got two 'bonus' tracks for their troubles.

We Love Life seems to have signaled the end of Pulp as a band, the members are now off doing their own thing, and Cocker is going around calling himself Darren Spooner these days. Many songs also seem to hint at a conclusion by revisiting previous Pulp works and reflecting, questioning or deliberately recalling them.

In keeping with the general tree-hugging sensibilities of the record, the band made a pledge to denote money to the Future Forests organisation from each CD sale. This will help to combat rising carbon dioxide levels and other artists have since followed suit with similar pledges.

Now track-by-track:

  1. Weeds

    The opening track - this recalls Misshapes from Different Class with emphatic statement of intent - this time a call for the rising up of 'weeds', representing the working class or asylum seekers. The weeds are so familiar in every town and city poking up through cracks in the pavement. The obvious drugs connection is made, sneering again at the wealthy (echoes of Common People) who only

    "come round to visit us
    When you fancy booze and drugs"
    Of the album this is musically closest to their mid-90s sound. Catchy but not the best song in the album

  2. Weeds II (The Origin of the Species)

    This is better, segueing straight in from the previous track, with a little programming magic from Howie B (Scottish DJ who worked on U2's Pop). This is part sequel, part remix an elaboration and discussion of the previous songs, like all those dons who pontificate over obscure Dylan album tracks. The tongue is slightly in the cheek, but the passion and determination of the previous songs. Featuring your traditional whispering Cocker spoken-word monologue, over a tinkling piano and some strange squelching noises courtesy of B. There is your customary Pulp wordplay and punning agricultural couplets. Then Jarvis becomes self-aware and emplores "do your funny little dance", which is heaven for anyone who's ever witnessed a Pulp gig.

  3. The Night that Minnie Timperley Died

    Wakes you up with a strident guitar intro and has a super addictive little melody. The song - based on a dream - tells of a young girl whose nights out consist of crap pubs and clubs, the flipside to the communal raves as documented in Sorted for E's and Whizz. Wistful and sympathetic, the song describes Minnie leaving early, accepting an offer of a life from a strange man,

    "he only did what he did 'cos you looked like one of his kids"
    which leads to her doom, but still sounds like a celebration of Minnie's life. Could have been a great single, despite the subject matter, if the band still gave a rat's arse about such fripperies.

  4. The Trees

    This was the first single, albeit a double a-side with Sunrise, reaching 23 in the UK charts. Fairly slow paced, featuring orchestra and loads of strings a wonderful slice of pop. The lyrics are ambiguous, Cocker may be singing about a lost love, or a crime of passion. A sample from the a long lost Clement and la Frenais film, Otley bobs along in the background, driving the song forward. Their is also a great organ solo from, presumably, Walker himself. All together now;

    "the trees, those useless trees, they never said, that you were leaving...."

  5. Wickerman

    "Yeah, underneath the city
    Through dirty brickwork conduits
    Connecting white witches on the moor
    With Pre-Raphaelites down in Broomhall
    Beneath the old Trebor factory
    That burned down in the early Seventies
    Leaving an antiquated sweetshop smell
    And caverns of nougat and caramel"
    Centre-piece of the album, a stunning 8 and a half minute long epic piece of perfection. Cocker is back in spoken word mode again, reciting a long poetic tale of the river flowing through Sheffield, remembering a long departed lover in a manner reminiscent of David's Last Summer. Full of lush strings, this feels the most cinematic Pulp have ever been with glimpses of Morricone appearing now and again, a glass harmonica and backing vocals by the Swingle Sisters. Also includes elements of Willow's Song by Paul Giovanni from the cult British horror film The Wicker Man. Better than Common People.

  6. I Love Life

    The title track of the album, but probably the weakest track. This is unashamedly upbeat and happy, and sounds like Cocker emerging unscathed from the otherside of The Fear. The song is split into two, and the second half plunges onto progressive louder noise, but doesn't work as well as it could. Still lovely sentiment dears,

    "breathe in, breathe out"

  7. The Birds in Your Garden

    Genteel ballad, almost nursery rhyme like, the opening does feature birdsong. Sounds very similar to Something Changed The song was first debuted at Pulp shows in 1999. Again it sounds like a love song but could hint at something more sinister;

    "Oh, come on!, Touch her inside, It's a crime against nature, She's been waiting all night"

  8. Bob Lind (the only way is down)

    Thematically close to This is Hardcore, dealing with the perils of fame and celebrity on relationships, but Cocker sounds far more at ease with himself now.

    "I have no pride left, no there's nothing I'm trying to prove, I admit I am a fuck up like the rest of you"
    More upbeat, jangly guitar, with a hook hidden in the off key bassline. Again this could have been a super single. Bob Lind was a UK singer in the 60s, the song is named for him because it sounds like a song of his, Elusive Butterfly.

  9. Bad Cover Version

    Hilariously bitter and deliberately flippant, the song sees Cocker reflecting on his ex's new bloke and concluding he's is a 'bad cover version'. Features a xylophone and sounds like it could be made in the 50s. Rhymes been and saccharine. The ending chorus lists a load of bad cover version;

    "It's like a later Tom and Jerry
    When the two of them could talk
    Like the Stones since the 80s
    Like the last days of Southfork
    Like Planet of the Apes on TV
    The second side of 'Til The Band Comes In
    Like an own-brand box of cornflakes
    He's gonna let you down, my friend"
    Typically of Pulp they take a swipe at their own producer - Til the Band Comes In was a Scott Walker album. BCV was released as a single, got to number 27 as Radio 1 and pappy commercial stations decided not to playlist it. What fools.

  10. Roadkill

    A sad little delicate strummy love song featuring an acoustic guitar along with an electric cello. Full of serene regret for a lost love it fits delightfully between BCV and the closing Sunrise.

  11. Sunrise

    Great closer, gives the band an opportunity to give hell, helped by former Longpig Richard Hawley wigging out with a steel guitar. From the opening military drum beat the songs swings along, changing mood whilst simultaneously building up layer upon layer of sound on your head. They appear to have borrowed Jason Pierce's choir from somewhere, and spiritualized you can feel the dawn breaking as multiple climaxes break (I counted at least three). Lyrically the song speaks of renewal and hope at a new day, and overcoming your past fears.

    "I used to hate the sun,
    because it shone on everything I'd done."
    Bursting with optimism and hope, so much so the multi-nationals wanted a piece and the song was ripped off by Coca Cola for an advert. Leaves you wanting more

    All songs written by Jarvis Cocker, Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey, Mark Webber. Produced by Scott Walker.

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