When Pulp splashed onto the scene two years ago with their breakthrough single, "Common People," musical commoners the world over marveled at singer Jarvis Cocker's wry wit set against the band's infectious dance-pop charade. Cocker sounded like Bryan Ferry with bite: an angry, voyeuristic vocalist backed by a tasteful beat. That song barely indicated the true wisdom of "Different Class," its host album and an altogether misanthropic sociological statement on the post-rave, ecstacy-rattled malaise that has plagued the latter part of this decade. It also was one of the most accomplished rock records of the era.
"This is Hardcore" raises the stakes with its portrait of a world full of means (drugs and porn) but short on ends (imminent death). During its career, Pulp has consistently conjured shades of Bowie-swagger colored with a touch of Nick Cave -- and after 15 years of loathsome fun, they ought to have it right. From the deceptively simple, bravado lyrics of the overtly cinematic title track, This is hardcore/This is me on top of you, it's clear that they do.