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Pulp – Cocaine Socialism Review

Singles are only as good as the rhythm it cuts and the statement it makes. For Pulp, their early draft of Glory Days is a considerable force considering the style of release. A few lyrical changes here or there and a firmed-up guitar riff which displays a distrust for the Cool Britannia feel of the time. Say that dirty word, as Warren Beatty once called it on Bulworth. Socialism. Naughty bit of business. No wonder it was coupled with the change of pace, the rhythm which hit back against the wave of Cool Britannia. Pointed and political as the latter, Hits-released Last Day of the Miner’s Strike provided. Pulp was always an inherently political band, their greatest tracks have the benefit of colloquial struggle and their history before Cocaine Socialism placed them deep in the heart of working-class culture. 

For Cocaine Socialism then, the line is blurred. The oft criticism of their rejection of the Common People they once provided tunes for paired with those brushing shoulders with the powers that be at the time. Their goal was fame not fortunes of power, as was the case for other singer-songwriters of the time. No, Cocaine Socialism has a far more streamlined goal to it. Despite being a lesser version of Glory Days, it still holds up as one of the band’s best works through its dedication to a leering mockery of multiple values which still ring true in the present. Pulp piece a few lines together and linger on that constant buzz, the feel of a hit and the faux representations of political activism in a time spent at the top of their game. But this, along with fellow underdog track The Professional, does well to dismantle the Pulp image. 

Their lack of spotlight focus must have a reason. Within both tracks are references to their early work, the common people and misfits of Different Class here and the His ‘n’ Hers intrigue of deconstructing mid-1990s family values on The Professional. Heavier on the brass and saxophone, Cocaine Socialism still has the same bridge as Glory Days, with the latter cleaning it up and tightening Mark Webber’s guitar work. This period of Pulp is best articulated by album ender The Day After the Revolution and their search for peace in overlapping noise. Everything toys with a wall of sound Spector feel, and where Cocaine Socialism relies on that is in the panic, nausea and swirling interjections the brain brings out when at the height of a socialist, cocaine-fused peak. It makes the obvious play on champagne socialists but moves it on with incredibly important momentum. 

To discuss contributions to “the future of our nation’s heart and soul,” as Cocker puts it here, is to understand where Cocaine Socialism falls. Reject the Cool Britannia motive, embrace the post-fallout of a period which damaged the soul and changed perspectives inside the genre. With the world around them crumbling, Pulp does nothing different but observe and let their own thoughts take hold. Cocaine Socialism presents the insiders looking in on themselves, not liking what they see around them and reacting to it. The best of Pulp’s work, and Cocaine Socialism is no different, its tongue-in-cheek qualities flickering through before its spare parts were attached to Glory Days.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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