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Steel City Sounds: Pulp – His ‘n’ Hers

It’s no secret that Pulp are often at the forefront of the Steel City’s rich music heritage, so what better influential album to shine a spotlight on this month other than their Mercury Prize nominated record, His ‘n’ Hers.

Released in 1994, His ‘n’ Hers provided the Sheffield-based band with a breakthrough which would secure their legacy as icons in the Britpop scene, its irresistible realism when exploring relationships and intimacy simultaneously reflective of the era and consistently relevant even today.

Though tracks from Different Class (‘Common People’, ‘Disco 2000’) are far more likely to be heard on the dancefloor of indie clubs (in a world where they’re actually allowed to open up, of course…), His ‘n’ Hers seems to have stood the test of time because of its understated gems and witty lyricism.

There’s a certain desperation to a lot of the tracks on this album, a desperation which is as hopelessly relatable as it is unnervingly seductive. This quality – arguably quintessential to Pulp’s very core – is particularly prevalent on tracks such as ‘Babies’, ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’, and ‘Pink Glove’.

The former of the aforementioned songs embodies an almost juvenile perspective of sexual encounters; ‘Babies’, a tongue-in-cheek tale of voyeurism, is punctuated with a backhanded line of reassurance – “I only went with her ‘cos she looks like you!”. This expression of cluelessness mixed with sheer anguish encapsulates the trials and tribulations of sexual exploration versus adolescent attempts at loyalty.

Conversely, ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ and ‘Pink Glove’, which appear further down the track list, reflect upon far more grown-up scenarios involving a lack of fulfilment, bitter third parties, and the hopeless acceptance of receiving but a ‘piece’ of your lover’s attention. It is this reluctance to romanticise any given period of a person’s amorous journey which makes the album so timeless; it encompasses a coming-of-age spirit without ever really coming of age.

There’s a certain desperation to a lot of the tracks on this album, a desperation which is as hopelessly relatable as it is unnervingly seductive.

As well as his uniquely desperate tone, I think that Jarvis Cocker’s ability to narrate a female perspective is wholly underrated – and never more so than on track number 2 of His ‘n’ Hers, ‘Lipgloss’. With lipgloss acting as a metaphor for a woman’s sex appeal, Jarvis tackles the insecurities surrounding being rejected by a person who may not have, in reality, been all that appealing themselves:

“Oh, and you feel such a fool
 For laughing at bad jokes and putting up with all of his friends
(…) What are they gonna say, when they run into you again?!”

In an age where songs which promote female empowerment are quite rightly dominating the charts, it’s sometimes hard to remember the vast discography throughout music history which tells the tale of women who don’t feel good enough, who feel rejected – or who even feel, to put it frankly, a bit past it – and ‘Lipgloss’ falls perfectly into this now long-forgotten about narrative. Once again, Pulp’s realism when viewed through this kind of lens is what makes this album so unmistakably raw and honest, the kind of truthfulness which acted as the perfect catalyst for the band’s future and longstanding success.

His ‘n’ Hers took its listeners on a journey to Stanhope Road, Sheffield, back in 1994, and established Pulp as one of the city’s true greats; its ‘Kitchen Sink’ essence is what grounds Pulp as a band whose coolness transcends eras and trends – a Britpop classic which sounds just as marvellous nearly 27 years later here in 2021.

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