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PulpThe Trees (2001)

” Where’er you walk,

Cool gales shall fan the glade

Trees where you sit

Shall crowd into a shade

Trees where you sit

Shall crowd into a shade.

– From George Frideric Handels’ Semele (1743)

Ah, yes nothing like a pretentious quote from an 18th Century Operatic number to start with eh? But seriously folks, I’m here all week and maybe even longer, possibly hundreds of years if somehow my DNA is that of a tree. Placid, inscrutable, strong, ever-changing yet never-changing. It’s not for me to suggest I possess any of these qualities but seeing as I’m already referring to myself in the first person, any attempts at humility would now only seem like the weak protestations of a self-denying, dyed in the wool narcissist.

Which brings us neatly to the blithe though charming air of narcissism running through this exquisitely despondent song from Pulp’s last original album, the overlooked We Love Life from the year of Arthur C Clarke, 2001. This was the bands last record, coming in the wake of a commercial decline that had followed the release of 1998’s This is Hardcore, a dark, oft brutal album  in which lead singer & laureate Jarvis Cocker examined the fallout of being a famous pop star.

We Love Life, produced by Scott Walker was praised by critics as a more mature, reflective work indicating that the band who had given the world Common People had moved on artistically while a significant chunk of their audience from that era of Brit Pop glory were unwilling to follow them. Thus, We Love Life came and went, the band splitting in 2002. They reformed in 2011 to tour but no new material has been forthcoming so it would seem that We Love Life is the band’s final musical statement.

The first single from the album ‘The Trees’ is more stately and deliberate than anything the band had done up to that point but the wry, world-weary voice of Jarvis Cocker remains intact suggesting heartbreak but also self-absorbed peevishness, blaming ‘those useless trees’ for his predicament, for not warning him that his lover would leave. They seem to exist solely for him, to reflect his moods, desires, passions, his love but when that love is gone, all they are good for is the ‘air that I am breathing’. Of course, Jarvis knows that the trees and nature couldn’t give a toss about his self-pity but this is a ritual he needs to enact, a ritual as old as ‘the trees.’