Picks and Pans Review: This Is Hardcore

updated 04/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Pulp

Unlike such fellow British upstarts as Oasis and the Verve, Pulp has not caught fire on this continent, where the group's album sales have been as tepid as warm beer. Yet Pulp's lanky leader, Jarvis Cocker, is a beloved eccentric in England, where his witty, literate songs chronicling British suburban life have earned comparisons to the master of bemused English introspection, Kinks kingpin Ray Davies. Cocker is admired too for his iconoclasm (he once mooned Michael Jackson at a televised awards show, in protest, he said, of the singer's humorlessness). Jarvis, who studied film in London before forming Pulp some 15 years ago, is hardly irony-impaired, as these 13 world-gone-wrong songs demonstrate. Chock full of wordplay and wry musings—"I could be a genius if I just put my mind to it," he sings on "Glory Days"—Hardcore is alternately sarcastic and wistful. At 34, Cocker already rues his generation's youth obsession. "Help the aged," he sings, "one time they were just like you, drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue." (Island)

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