Summerisle In (Sort Of) Pop #1 – Pulp’s Wickerman: Audio Visual Transmission Guide #31/52a
A while ago I read Freak Out The Squares, which is former Pulp member Russel Senior’s autobiography of his time with the band.
In it there is a section where he talks about a time where pre their fame he and former members of Pulp went on an expedition through underground tunnels beneath Sheffield that were used for sluicing industrial run off, how that journey became increasingly dangerous feeling and that it inspired the Pulp song Wickerman (which was recorded after he left).
I most probably listened to the song when We Love Life, the album it was on, came out but hadn’t remembered it until then.
Listening to it now it struck me as a curious piece of culture, one that interweaves samples from the original The Wicker Man film soundtrack recording and hence otherly folkloric concerns, alongside a sense of urban exploration, the true history of the band, spoken word, a certain grandiosity in its production (courtesy of producer Scott Walker?), the social history of Sheffield and surrounding areas and a yearning, wistful love story.
Here are a selection of the lyrics:
“Just behind the station, before you reach the traffic island, a river runs through a concrete channel.
I took you there once; I think it was after the Leadmill.
The water was dirty & smelt of industrialisation
Little mesters coughing their lungs up & globules the colour of tomato ketchup.
But it flows…
Underneath the city through dirty brickwork conduits
Connecting white witches on the Moor with pre-Raphaelites down in Broomhall.
Beneath the old Trebor factory that burnt down in the early seventies…
And the river flows on…
And it finally comes above ground again at Forge Dam: the place where we first met.”
Jarvis Cocker, who I assume wrote the lyrics, said that he used to live on The Wicker which is a street in Sheffield and so I guess that’s where the title in part comes from.
In a further connection with otherly folklore, what the real life story of the band wandering through these tunnels also put me in mind of was the underground tunnel sequence in Ben Wheatley’s The Kill List.
But I won’t talk too much of that as I want to sleep tonight.
The album We Love Life seems to have been a mixture of classic Pulp-like kitchen sink-esque observation and an interest/attempt to connect with the basics of a more natural life, particularly so in related artwork and on songs such as Trees and Sunrise, alongside which the band played a series of concerts in forests to support its release.
(File Post Under: Cathode Ray & Cinematic Explorations, Radiowave Resonations & Audiological Investigations)
Audio Visual Transmission Guide: Pulp’s Wickerman