"This is the sound of someone losing the plot/you're gonna like it, but not a lot." So says Jarvis Cocker on "The Fear", the opening track on This Is Hardcore, the ambitious follow-up to Pulp's breakthrough Different Class, thereby providing his own review for the album. Cocker doesn't quite lose the plot on This Is Hardcore, but this ominous, claustrophobic track makes it clear that this is a different band, one that no longer has anthems like "Common People" in mind. The shift in direction shouldn't come as a surprise - Pulp were always an arty band - but even the catchiest numbers are shrouded in darkness.
This Is Hardcore is haunted by disappointments and fear - by the realisation that what you dreamed of may not be what you really wanted. Nowhere is this better heard than on "This Is Hardcore", where drum loops, lounge piano, cinematic strings, and a sharp lyric create a frightening monument to weary decadence. It's the centrepiece of the album, and the best moments follow its tone.