Do you remember the first time? ‘His ’N’ Hers’ and the rebirth of Pulp

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Today, Pulp are perhaps one of the most beloved institutions in British music. From the peak of their Britpop-era fame, penning iconic tracks like ‘Common People’ or ‘Disco 2000’, the Jarvis Cocker-fronted group have certainly woven themselves into the cultural fabric of the United Kingdom and beyond. Indeed, for many people, it is difficult to imagine a time before the world became enamoured with the thick-rimmed black spectacles of Sheffield’s finest. However, the band had been struggling along for years as a relatively obscure local act before they first found success with the brilliance of 1994’s His ‘N’ Hers.

Despite their reputation as a ‘Britpop band’, the origins of Pulp date back to 1978: the era of post-punk and new wave. Formed by then-school-boy Jarvis Cocker, the group achieved the kind of modest success afforded to many high school outfits, playing a variety of small-scale shows around South Yorkshire while receiving very little attention from anybody outside the realms of the A61. Although Cocker never resigned himself to the kind of ordinary working life that was, admittedly, becoming a scarcity in post-industrial Sheffield, they never looked as though it was going to take off.

To paraphrase Salvador Dalí, via John Cooper Clarke, “To become universal, you must first become ultra-local,” and Pulp certainly achieved that local hero status during the 1980s. Cocker’s band were stalwarts of the grassroots music scene in Sheffield, and, as such, they managed to release a handful of records. These early albums, including It, Freaks and Separations, are not bad records by any stretch of the imagination, but they lacked the universal appeal to awaken wider audiences to their songwriting genius.

In the early 1990s, around the time of Separations, it seemed as though the group had started to find their groove. After landing on a solid line-up of Cocker alongside Steve Mackey, Russell Senior, Candida Doyle, and Nick Banks, the stage was finally set for Pulp to launch a full-scale sonic assault on the musical mainstream with the release of His ‘N’ Hers.

From the opening bars of ‘Joyriders’ to the seven-minute epic of ‘David’s Last Summer’, Pulp’s 1994 album is an undisputed masterpiece of the era. The group’s first three records had been passable—good, even—but there is something distinctly different about His ‘N’ Hers. The release may as well have been the band’s debut, given that it established the sound and style that Pulp would soon become synonymous with.

With this renaissance in their style, the public were finally turned on to the distinctive tones of Pulp. ‘Lipgloss’, the first single to be released from the album, gave Cocker his first taste of pop stardom, breaking into the UK singles charts and reaching a modest 50th position. Although the song demanded much more acclaim than it received at the time, it did at least help to put Pulp on the radar of the musical mainstream, eventually culminating in a Mercury Prize nomination and His ‘N’ Hers becoming a top ten album upon its release.

The following few years for Pulp would perhaps eclipse the success of His ‘N’ Hers, with both Different Class and This Is Hardcore rightfully becoming number one albums and Pulp gaining a reputation as one of the four horsemen of the Britpop era (you can decide among yourselves who the other three are). Nevertheless, the material contained on His ‘N’ Hers still stands up 30 years later, and the album should be endlessly celebrated for bringing about a rebirth of Jarvis Cocker’s band, which saw them become something of a cultural phenomenon.

Listen to His ‘N’ Hers by Pulp below.

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