When you stumble shell-shocked from a nine-year long relationship that has exploded in betrayal, you lose things. Not just all the obvious things such as trust, self-confidence and a belief in love. You lose everything you once enjoyed sharing together. You lose places and favourite meals. You lose the comedies you both laughed at and you lose music.
One of the reasons for this is that music is time travel. You can hear a song and be instantly transported to the moment it became resonant and meaningful. A song is able to contain such a powerful emotional charge that it can fold any amount of time and space. The soundtrack to your life is also the map which records all the temporal wormholes into your past.
For me Suicide Is Painless is both a chart of the direct route and mode of transportation to The Deanes School disco in 1982. My first slow dance with Elaine Steel. The revelatory feeling as the soft curve of breast pressed into me. The flair of nascent hormones. Temple of Love takes me to the goth crowd surge of the Pink Toothbrush. The Soul Of Carmen Miranda and I am in The Back Room with The Dove, clinking bottles of Mexican beer.
Losing music hurts a lot. In the painful aftermath of Anne-Marie Forker*, I lost the ability to listen to a host of music that I had once thrilled to. I lost The Beatles and The Pixies. I lost a lot of bands and I lost Pulp.
Of course I still had Jarvis Cocker because he himself has lost Pulp. He was still as witty and angry as ever. Breaking my heart with Everyone Loves The Underdog. Moving on from parading pithy comments about the working class to actually attacking the philosophies of power structures exploiting them on Running The World. His Quantum Theory, with lyrics about slipping into parallel dimensions where things turn out differently, made me teary.
However, it was Jarvis solo. Fresh songs, none of memory baggage or danger of temporal slipping that came with Pulp. Dancing with Surreal Girl to Jarvis at the Shepherds Bush Empire was joyous. Walking hand-in-hand from gig to Tube, it was clear that not only was Jarvis undimmed, so was I. There were no ghosts and my heart was full of love.
Everything was fine except I still missed Pulp. Missed a treasury of songs with killer choruses and acerbic, funny lyrics about things that mattered. The music I was afraid to listen to because of the past, was music that meant still meant something to me beyond the awful emotional entanglements it had picked up along the way.
Reclaiming Pulp started with discovering songs I had failed to hear first time around. A whole range of stunning B-sides and tracks for films completely new to my ears. Unsoiled songs with no temporal connections.
Cocaine Socialism was the first – a scathing attack on New Labour attitudes once they were ensconced in Whitehall. For someone who became a political lobbyist in 1997, it caught everything I had felt at the time. It was as much an anthem for me as David’s Last Summer or Common People had ever been.
By the time I was dancing to tracks as obscure as This Boy’s Evil, I knew I was ready to take back whole lost albums such as Different Class and This Is Hardcore. This was music too good to be ruined by painful memories. It was a blissful shock to listen to all those songs I once loved, but had been avoiding. I now know that relationship revenants are easily exorcised from musical entanglement by a combination of current happiness and secure love.
Now Pulp themselves are back. The old gang reunited. Hopefully they will on form and able to score a soundtrack of popular discontent. Able to create new anthems for this callous ConDem Nation. This coming summer could be the season in which Jarvis delivers his most powerful kicking against the pricks yet. After all, there are an awful lot of public school boys, mendacious manipulators and bullies in power to aim for these days.
In July, Surreal Girl and I will throw down a blanket in Hyde Park. Stepping around our picnic of home-baked sausage pie and strong Spanish wine, we will dance and kiss. She will hold me as I bask in the warmth of her skin.
Pulp will play into ears free from the fear of past hurt. Songs reborn to accompany the new trajectories of history. Songs creating a whole new network of memories; time travel tunnels back to this moment. Songs slotted back into their rightful place in the soundtrack of my life.
*Or as she is known in our home these days and in this blog from now on, FK.