Tonight and tomorrow Pulp play Radio City Music Hall, their first New York shows in 14 years. As the band have only played our city three times before — total — and Jarvis hasn't done any Pulp songs during his solo visits, it's kind of a big deal. You know you're going to get "Common People" and "Disco 2000" and "This is Hardcore" and "Do You Remember the First Time" and most of their other most loved songs. None of this ten song Bizzaro world Greatest Hits are likely to be played, but would be welcome surprises between "Sorted for Es and Whiz" and "Babies." Don't count them out entirely, though. I originally was going to include "Like a Friend" from the Great Expectations soundtrack on this list but then they played it last night on Jimmy Fallon. Maybe there's hope for "Mile End" yet.
Just for a sense of history, it would be nice to get Pulp's 1983 debut single which is a nice little bit of pastoral janglepop complete with seaside sound effects. Jarvis' outsider point of view is already established but his voice is not — neither lyrically or his singing style which here might now remind some of Jens Lekman.
"Dogs are Everywhere"
Written during the months Jarvis spent convalescing in a wheelchair after a falling out a window, "Dogs Are Everywhere" imagines a world full of loutish freeloaders, impossible to escape. Pulp aren't really playing many (or any) songs from their obscure '80s era, but this probably sounds the most like what Pulp would become ten years later.
"My Legendary Girlfriend"
After the arty, utterly depressing (and rather tuneless) 1987 album Freaks, Jarvis got over himself and discovered dance music. This track from 1991's Separations was the first great single of the Pulp we know and love, a mix of whispered vocals, disco wah-wah, self-deprecation and bravado. That said, it's nearly seven minutes long and still pretty obscure.
The first official single from 1993's His & Hers is still in Pulp's repetoire but has only been played twice since reforming. Jarvis was tossing off lines like "No wonder you're looking thin, when all that you live on is lipgloss and cigarettes" left and right by this time. Doubtful any Pulp fan would mind hearing this one trotted out, though it probably won't be missed either.
"She's a Lady"
A disco stomper that liberally steals from Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," "She's a Lady" would probably still be a favorite if Jarvis and co. hadn't bettered the template a year later with "I Spy." Still, you can imagine this one being amazing live.
"Live Bed Show"
This isn't the Different Class 17th Anniversary Tour and despite that album being pretty much flawless, you can't have every song. This and "Monday Morning" have been played the least of that albums' flawless tracklist. But they both have been played, more than a few times, so it's possible.
The flip to "Disco 2000," this tale of pathetic jealously over an ex is perhaps Pulp's greatest b-side. The song never made it past the demo stage and the band have never played it live. But they really should.
The band's contribution to the Trainspotting soundtrack is a fond recollection of squatting in a really bad neighborhood. ("The lift is always full of piss / The fifth floor landing smells of fish"). "Mile End" is probably the only non-LP Pulp song to be truly essential, and one of this writer's favorite songs they ever did. Seriously, why have they only played this twice since getting the band back together?
"Help the Aged"
"Help the aged, one time they were just like you / drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue." Maybe a little too on the nose for a reunion tour, "Help the Aged" is Jarvis at his most empathetic... and prophetic. It was the first single from This is Hardcore but has only been wheeled out once for these reunion shows. Maybe we'll get it in 2022.
The last song Pulp wrote together and the first single from their final album, "The Trees" is perhaps a bit to wistful and reflective for inclusion in a set geared toward the hits (it's been played once) but it's easily one of the best songs on We Love Life.